Monday, May 31, 2010

dungog highlight #1

Last week I flew all across Australia with four other lovely ladies from the WA Screen Academy to attend the DUNGOG FILM FESTIVAL - a weekend of screenings and parties in a tiny rural NSW town of 3000 people and a lot more cattle. One of my short films was selected for the Sunday "whimsical" screening session (what makes a film whimsical? how do you measure levels of whimsy? don't ask me), so that was kinda my excuse for being there, but actually the weekend was amazing for so many other reasons. Here are some highlights, presented across three separate posts for your reading convenience.


I went into this film wanting to adore it. I was already enamoured with all the promotional images, plus it premiered on the festival's opening night - so we were all dressed up, excited and giddy from having just walked across a 2m long red carpet. Truly though, I reckon this one could have screened in a cattle shed, all of us sitting on dirty hay stacks, and I would have loved it equally.

It's about a 11-year-old girl called Louise, who sits on the brink of early adulthood, starting to understand everything that's recently gone wrong for her family. Naturally, she blames her tortured soul of a mother (Emily Barclay - another beautiful woman) for her father's recent departure and for all their consequential financial predicaments. So, when her estranged and befuddled grandfather Doyle (John Hurt) shows up and it's up to Lou to look after him, she sees it as just another case of her mother eschewing responsibility. Of course, though, this is actually Lou's big chance to learn a thing or two about empathy and humility; in short, to grow up.

This isn't a simple relationship, though. Everything that occurs between the two is complicated by the fact that Doyle has Alzeihmer's and he's convinced that Lou is actually the love of his life. So, what you get is a slowly unfolding relationship that is actually almost as uncomfortable as it is beautiful. The film throws out a whole lot of questions about love and growing up and family and beauty - and then it makes you cry because you realise that finding answers ultimately isn't all that important. It's a complex story, bolstered by amazing performances from Hurt, Barclay and of course little Lou who plays angelic pain to perfection. Plus, its soundtrack is lovely, the sparse country vistas capture the mood ideally, and the whole visual style is something I want to steal - soft, gentle lighting, bright pastelly colours, plenty of rainbow lens flares and gorgeous orange skies.

This is very much akin to the kind of film I'd like to make. It's funny in all the right moments, has a really strong visual style, and also a deeply human story. I may have drunkenly told the lovely director Belinda Czajko all of this at one of the parties. Oops?

xxxx Magda

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