The final night of the Revelations Film Festival made time to showcase a collection of Australian-made short films. Overall, the quality of the output was high – the acting was uniformly excellent, the directorial visions were mostly clear and effective, and the generous budgets for each were apparent and put to great use.
The first to be shown was Monsters As Friends, a mini-documentary film about rising star local artist Steve Browne, as he twisted and turned his way to setting up his very first solo exhibition. Garnering international fame for his stellar Logan mural painted in promotion of Hugh Jackman’s last outing as the famous character, Browne is filmed navigating the many stresses of bringing his exhibition dream to fruition with a healthy dose of irrepressible humour and cathartic buckets of sweat and tears. A slight documentary about a local artist’s struggle to get paid for his efforts was an early highlight of the night and made me an instant fan of Browne’s work. I wish him luck!
I Said Nothing was mostly set inside the protagonist’s memory, and it was a relief to see the conceit was used effectively to tell its story. When a passionate ex shows up at her engagement party to a new man, she debates whether she made the right choice in the depths of her mind. She plays a psychological gamble with her current relationship by remembering both the good and bad of what came before, and whether what she has now is worth what she will ultimately have to give up. It was an energetic, funny and surprisingly deep look at how love both lost and gained can be a very introspective experience, even if it did veer off into standard American-fare rom-com stylings by the end. Well worth a seeking out.
Nobody’s Child was a refreshing viewing experience, if only for its rich outback setting and a touching cast of the type of actors little seen in commercial cinema. With a twin sister in hospital after nearly drowning, a young Indigenous girl comes to terms with her grief and a clawing sense of responsibility for her sister’s predicament. Her devoted grandparents do their best to soothe her, but her memory of the day her sister nearly drowned weighs heavily on her – her large, beautiful eyes acting as a window into an innocent soul being tormented. Though a little too maudlin and sentimental to be a truly affecting tragedy, writer-director CJ Friday has made a well-acted tearjerker in the heart of this nation’s natural splendour – a startling achievement in itself.
Crumbs, my least favourite of the roster, showcased in spades the very same writing problems holding back Nobody’s Child from becoming all that that film wished it was…only without the added benefit of the splendid outback setting and refreshingly little-seen cast. After a personal tragedy has driven a wedge between a man and wife, the man strikes up an unusual relationship with his 9-year-old neighbour, who is busy trying to help a bird’s egg hatch. A thinly veiled metaphor for the loss felt through miscarriage and the redemptive process in trying again, this film failed to fundamentally understand that crying does not equal good acting and that stories about hard-hitting subjects – when not told effectively – often and easily become unfortunate, manipulative exercises in tedium. In an otherwise great program, this short stuck out like a sore thumb.
Luckily the next film Watchdog was undoubtedly the strongest film shown that night and was perfectly placed to soothe my soul after the poor showing of Crumbs. A lonely but compassionate man saves lives in danger of suicide on the peaks of his favourite fishing cliffs in a beautiful and fascinating look into a remote sort of life that is nonetheless full of meaning, loss, and hope. With a towering, heartbreaking performance from lead actor Igor Sas as the fisherman dedicated to lending those in need a helping hand, this is an Australian viewing experience you won’t want spoiled for you. Brilliant, and the highlight of the night by far.
Lastly, an odd and intriguing setting pays off in Adult School where, under a new government ruling, all adults are required to complete enrolment in a school where they are taught to be, well, adults. Lara is a new classmate attending Adult School with her long-term partner. Confused about where her life is going and whether she is happy in her relationship, she meets Harry, a heartthrob surfer dude who helps her find what she is looking for. I realise I’m being vague, but – like the aforementioned Watchdog – this is a film with some surprising turns that I would hate to spoil for you should you see it. A fresh take on love – not just for others, but yourself as well – keeps it from falling into familiar rom-com trappings, and it remains a witty, funny film throughout.
All in all, it was a sound way to conclude what was an intriguing, intelligent, and altogether quality Revelations Film Festival, filled to the brim with fascinating viewing experiences if you knew where to look. 2017’s fest was certainly an artistic success. Roll on next year!
For more information visit the RevFest Website