Adelaide (Short) Film Festival Thoughts

GU Film House, Hindley St. Adelaide, 15 October 2018

It’s hard to tell a story.  It is an Art. And part of the art is in selection and concision. That said, there are several feature films that run for a couple of hours which we never want to end.  P feels this way, for example, about Accident, and Vertigo.  Others, like Picnic at Hanging Rock, seem to begin and end at exactly the right time…and place.  But others are quite long enough, thank you – think Lawrence of Arabia, which L wishes would terminate early, when Lawrence’s motorcycle goes off road (P disagrees). But generally, feature-length films could do with a drastic edit: there’s thousands (tens of thousands?) that could be trimmed to 90 minutes, or less (Darkest Hour and All the Money in the World are recent examples).

Cue the Adelaide Film Festival [place their address into your preferred search engine:] – Heavily featured are short films, some complete in themselves (an amuse bouche), others episodic, serving as an entree. They have the great advantage of concision, often paring-away the padding that marks time in standard-length fare.  There’s simply no space for fat and fluff when you’ve 10 to 20 minutes to tell a story or present a character.  They are cheaper to make – digital and other technologies enable auteurs to create without the slog of hawking a project around the festivals or film studios. Short films have their limitations, of course: they need careful handling in a different way to a feature film, in the same way that short stories must be managed differently from a novel. If care is not taken, they can play like a grab from a larger context and leave you wondering why bother with a scenario that was adjudged inadequate to develop more fully. At least one of the short films The Varnished Culture saw this evening fell into that category.

But we can say this about the 9 short films we saw: all were beautifully made (the editing was 1st class, apart from a couple of jump cuts), many were visually stunning, utilising technology and / or South Australian landscapes superbly, and none of them left one wondering about the point, or peering at one’s watch in the murk. Nor, thankfully, were the pieces freighted with agitprop, as can obtain from festivals such as Tropfest.

We’ll attempt brevity in review, in the spirit of the work under consideration:

Davi (See main image) – this for TVC was the hit of the night: a dystopian tale of the Numi, who in a dry forest of the dead, retain the unique ability to produce water (not by micturition) and are hence sought-after by hunters to exploit this resource through subjugation and slavery (think Hunger Games). Tender, violent and moving, it completely satisfied the demands of plot, character and denouement in its 18 minutes. A special shout-out for Holly Myers as the deputy leader of the hunters, in a startlingly lithe and vibrant performance. [Directed by Victoria Cocks **** (4 stars)]

The Big Nothing – We liked this episode concerning an inquiry into murder at a mining station located on a moon of Saturn. This first instalment featured an interview between a (perhaps overly bumptious) investigator and one of the prime suspects. It was well-played, and visually stunning – the planetary images recalled Douglas Trumbull’s brilliant work from Silent Running. [Directed by Lucy Campbell and Peter Ninos ***1/2]

Running 62 – This was basically a short doco about Zibeon Fielding, who attempts to run 62 kilometres through the remote APY lands to raise funds for indigenous healthcare. Mentored by famous marathon runner Robert de castella, Zibeon finds out that such a feat is hell on the feet and the rest of the body…and that the actual distance required is 63k!  There’s nothing outstanding about this film (the drone photography was excellent) but the likable people involved and the light, un-fussy way in which they are presented, made it the feel-good piece of the night. [Directed by Zibeon Fielding ***]

A Stone’s Throw – Apart from the odd surrealistic touch, this was a straight little drama about a troubled girl in hospital, and her equally troubled parents.  The acting is the star in this one. [Directed by Luke Wissell **1/2]

Freedom – This looked and sounded great – 2 brothers owe a gangster big money, so carry out a robbery. Then they get other ideas and things go pear-shaped. It has real possibilities, extended as a feature or tele-play but didn’t suit the 6 minute format, although filmed and acted with real flair. [Directed by David Muggleton **1/2]

Wild – Although this could easily fit into a skit from “Black Comedy,” that’s no mean feat. A woman turns up at the police station to bail out her truant younger brother; then she decides to inflict a bit of punishment of her own. Funny and over-played well, cleverly balancing the pathos and the comedy. [Directed by Kiara Milera ***]

Lucy and DiC – Lucy is a young (well, 29, going on…30) woman who aspires to self-help, but only with additional help.  She’s not served too well by her support drone, DiC, a talking, floating, opinionated bot, the bastard offspring of R2D2 and Wilson from Castaway, who can be a bit like his name implies. This is entertaining, amusing and looks like a series that could be popular, maybe with a few stronger jokes. [Directed by Jeremy Keller-Baker ***]

Small Town P.D. – Very silly, but hilarious: the town’s entire, useless cop-force cracks down hard on misdemeanors (often committed within their own ranks) whilst overlooking major felonies. A cross between Inspector Clouseau, the Keystone Cops and Reno 911. Nicely played and set-up. [Directed by Indianna Bell and Josiah Allen ***]

The Way – Telekinetic couple (lovers? father and daughter?) are on the run but one evening, sick of life in the bush, they check into a small motel, with disastrous results. A little predictable perhaps but faultlessly executed. [Directed by Jeremy Keller-Baker ***]

All in all, a great night – we’d much rather spend 100 minutes with these offerings than sit through First Man or A Star is Born (version # 4) any day!  The opening speeches by politicians and various bureaucrats were short and sweet as well. And the after-party at the resuscitated Queen’s Theatre was fun.

Rave On


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