Tagged: Sydney Film Festival

Summary:  DI is a 13-year-old girl living in a village lost in the mist of North Vietnamese mountains. She is fortunate in that she is part of the first generation of kids whom have the opportunity to have access to education, but she must convince her parents that studying is not a waste of time and money. If she can’t achieve this challenge, she would be trapped in the village her entire life, “just like a frog in a well”. DI belongs to the Hmong ethnic minority, where traditionally women get married very young, some of them from the early age of 12. In this society, marriage is linked to a very particular and controversial tradition: the “bride-kidnapping”. When a boy is interested in a girl, he organizes her kidnapping before forcing her back to his own home. In some occasions this process turns pretty dangerous and dark. When DI enters puberty, her personality has changed drastically: the carefree little girl has turned into an impetuous, hypersensitive teenager. She often has arguments with her mother who is trying to forbid her to have reckless relationships. Her mother worries that her daughter could be harmed or mistreated and won’t have enough maturity to handle the situation. On the Lunar New Year’s Eve, when DI’s parents come back home after celebrating, the house is silent and empty: DI has disappeared. Her mother broke in tears realising that her daughter had been kidnapped: this may signify the end of DI’s childhood and the beginning of her life as a woman.

Year: 2021

Cinema Release Dates:  TBA

VOD Release Dates: TBA

Country: Vietnam

Director: Ha Le Diem

Screenwriter: Nil

Cast: Nil

Running Time: 81 mins

Classification: TBC


David Griffiths’ Children Of The Mist Review:

I don’t think in all of my years of being a film lover that I have ever had a documentary jolt and jar me the way that Children Of The Mist did. This doco lulled me into a false sense of security and then delivered a moment so shocking and emotionally gut-wrenching that I think it will stay with me forever.

Directed by Ha Le Diem (Beautiful Bed) the doco follows the life of 13-year-old Di who lives in a small village in the Northern Highlands of Vietnam. In the beginning the film follows her everyday life – looking at what it is like at school and how she helps her parents on their farm. However, all throughout this time we see her and her friends joking about the fact that young girls are often ‘kidnapped’ and forced into marriage, in fact it is something that actually happened to Di’s own sister.

That turns into a dark foreshadowing of the second part of the doco. Early on it is easy to see that Di is friendly and flirty, yet very immature and unaware when it comes to men and boys. That friendly and flirty online nature soon turns sinister when a boy she has been chatting to online turns up during the New Year’s celebration and Di disappears.

There is simply no way to prepare yourself for the harsh moments of reality that you will see in the second half of this doco. In the best half at times it feels like you are watching the Vietnamese version of Big Brother set in a small village.

Diem shoots this like a fly-on-the-wall documentary and for the most part for the first half we see Di’s parents getting drunk with their friends while Di plays with her friends and talks about her friends. Then everything begins to fall away, we witness fights between Di and her mother and we see the frustration that her mother must endure with a husband that she claims is constantly drunk.

You are pulled into this world by the natural style of filmmaking that Diem brings to the screen and perhaps that is why the second half of this doco becomes so heart-breaking to watch. I won’t spoil what happens in the closing stages of this doco but I will warn you that it is at times very difficult to watch. I found myself at times wanting to look away but so invested in her story that I had to keep watching to see what happened to her.

There are ten minutes of this documentary where I finally learnt what it means to watch something with your heart in your mouth. The realisation hits you like a sledgehammer when you finally come to terms with the fact that this is not manufactured Hollywood suspense that you are watching and that this is real life and somebody is actually going through the worst moment of their life while you watch on.

At times this is a very difficult doco to watch but at the same time it is a very important doco as well. If nothing else it will make you feel pleased that you live in a country like Australia where these kinds of barbaric things occur. Like I said it is not easy to watch but the payoff is certainly worth it.

Dave’s rating Out Of 5

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Summary:  Three young South African women must navigate the crumbling ruins of a colonial past when they become rangers in the Greater Kruger Park, South Africa.

Year: 2022

Cinema Release Dates:  TBA

VOD Release Dates: TBA

Country: Germany, France

Director: Lena Karbe

Screenwriter: Tristan Coloma, Lena Karbe

Cast: Nil

Running Time: 81 mins

Classification: TBC


David Griffiths’ Black Mambas Review:

Being an active wildlife warrior myself this was one documentary that I didn’t want to miss at this year’s Sydney Film Festival. I first became aware of the Black Mambas and the work that they do several years ago in another doco but sadly back then they were only just mentioned. Luckily Black Mambas doesn’t do the same and instead explores the important work that these brave women do.

For the unaware the Black Mambas are a highly trained team of ‘security guards’ that are hired to patrol and protect the animals of the Greater Krueger National Park in South Africa. The Mambas main role is to make sure that neither hunters or poachers can make their way into the National Park and kill or harm any of the animals that call it home. What makes this crack squad even more intriguing is the fact that is made up of solely of women.

Directed by Lena Karbe (Chinese Dream) Black Mambas doesn’t just celebrate the fine work that this team do it goes deeper than that and not only shows the hard training they are put through but also explores the lifestyle change that the women who make up the Mambas go through to take on the job.

The area around the National Park is crippled with poverty and it was quite a wakeup call for me to watch this doco and learn how becoming a Mamba changes these women’s lives. Often the women find that their families don’t want them to do the job because it is dangerous and also some people with rather extreme views see them as going against their own culture as they stop traditional hunters from getting access to animals for food.

In fact that is one of the most memorable moments that Karbe manages to capture with the film. Many directors would solely keep the focus of this doco to the bravery of the Mambas but Karbe goes away from that at one stage and actually interviews a hunter who feels that the Mambas are one of the reasons why his family goes hungry. He eloquently puts it by saying “God provided these animals for our food and it is my right to hunt them.”

It is moments like that throughout the doco that made me stop and think about what is really happening here and likewise I found myself drawn into the film as Karbe showed the home-life of one of the Mambas who has a husband who seems to have taken on an element of laziness due to the fact that his wife an support him with her wage.

Nonetheless this is a doco that allows its audience the opportunity to get a good look into the lifestyle of the Mambas and Karbe shows maturity as a director by showing the audience both the positives and negatives of that lifestyle. Black Mambas is well worth a look if you are interested in docos about animal welfare and about strong women who have overcome the environment around them to empower themselves.

Dave’s rating Out Of 5

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Love & mercy Still

Icon Film Distribution is proud to announce that the Australian premiere of LOVE & MERCY will be held at Sydney’s State Theatre on Sunday June 7, 2015.  As announced last month, the film will be featured as part of the 2015 Sydney Film Festival with its first festival screening serving as the Australian Premiere.

We all know the music, but few know the true story of musical genius, Brian Wilson and his struggles with brilliance and balance.  Whilst his music shaped our lives, it would be the love of one special woman who saved his.

First time director, Bill Pohlad puts his experience as a producer on films such as 12 Years a Slave, The Tree of Life and Brokeback Mountain to good use.  In LOVE & MERCY he paints an unconventional portrait of Wilson, interweaving seminal moments from his youth and later life.

The role of Brian Wilson is masterfully shared between Paul Dano (12 Years a Slave, Little Miss Sunshine) as the younger, 1960s Brian; and John Cusack (Maps to the Stars, High Fidelity) as Wilson in the 1980s.  The film explores the many challenges Brian has faced, both from his point of view in his younger years; and from the perspective of his now wife, Melinda (Elizabeth Banks) when she meets Brian in his 40s and under the questionable medical care of Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti).

The Beach Boys were already experiencing chart topping success with Surfin’ Safari, I Get Around, Help Me Rhonda, California Girls and Good Vibrations when Brian found himself driven to move in a new musical direction.  Whilst this would ultimately lead to the creation of what is widely ranked as one of the greatest albums of all time – Pet Sounds – and songs like Wouldn’t It Be Nice, Sloop John B and God Only Knows; it also lead to the band breaking up and Brian breaking down.

The films shows  Brian becoming more and more isolated from his family and friends to the point where he seems to have been signed over into the care of Landy who seems determined, through overmedication and other manipulations, to keep Brian away from all real connections to the world.  When Melinda Ledbetter enters his life, their mutual attraction becomes a bond that the oppressive doctor cannot break.

As few biopics about musicians do, LOVE & MERCY offers a hopeful and happy ending – one that continues to play out in reality today.  Brian Wilson’s music continues to resonate with existing as well as new audiences every day.  Wilson’s 11th solo album, NO PIER PRESSURE was released earlier this year to critical acclaim.  One Kind of Love which is featured on the new album and also in the film has just been recognised as “Best Original Song” at the Nashville Film Festival.  More importantly (and even more rare) Brian and Melinda are still together and still in love.

LOVE & MERCY debuted to a standing ovation at the Toronto Film Festival and has continued to garner critical acclaim including from its showings at the Berlin Film Festival and the South By Southwest Festival.

Words used to describe LOVE & MERCY include, “compelling” (Collider); “dreamy and delirious” (Indiewire); “deeply satisfying” (The Hollywood Reporter); “emotionally exhilarating” and “exquisite” (HitFix); “engrossing” (Indiewire); “extraordinary” (The Washington Post) “tender” (BBC.com) and “touching” (Screen International).

Critics have also hailed the dual performances from Dano and Cusack as, “career-topping performances”; (Indiewire); “groundbreaking” (The Washington Post); “phenomenal” (Bloody Disgusting) and “uncanny” (Mashable Australia). Best known for her work as a comedic actress, Elizabeth Banks has also attracted praise for her career-redefining dramatic performance she gives in the film.

It seems likely that its screenings at the Sydney Film Festival will no doubt attract similar accolades for LOVE & MERCY including the film’s unique style and excellent performances.
Perhaps the best reactions are those from the man who lived the story, Brian Wilson himself

Only God Forgives

Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn and starring Ryan Gosling and Kristin Scott Thomas, ONLY GOD FORGIVES has been awarded the Sydney Film Prize at the 2013 Sydney Film Festival.

Following its world premiere at Cannes, this daring piece of cinema has continued to provoke debate amongst critics and filmgoers.  After much discussion, the SFF jury united in their decision to recognise the movie with this prestigious award.

Releasing in cinemas on July 18, the film is the second collaboration between its director and star who first worked together on 2011’s Drive.  It is also the second time the festival has recognised Winding Refn’s work (Bronson won the competition here in 2009).

Pleased with news of the film’s win, Nicolas Winding Refn commented, “I am very honoured and extremely excited to have received this honourable award from a country that, in my opinion, has one of the great film histories of the world.”  The writer/director has previously described his movie as, “a stream of consciousness… based on real emotions but set in a heightened reality.”

The stylish revenge thriller stars Ryan Gosling as Julian, who runs a boxing club in Bangkok as a front for his family drug business.  When his brother savagely murders a young prostitute, he is killed as retribution.  The matriarch of the family – and of the criminal organisation – Crystal, arrives to retrieve her son’s body.  Crazy with rage and thirsty for vengeance, she demands that Julian brings the heads of those responsible.  To do so he must face both the local figurehead of divine justice and his own personal demons.

Kristin Scott Thomas gives a chilling and abrasive powerhouse performance as Crystal, with standout dialogue that the actress has commented took her several takes to say.  Conversely, the withdrawn and tortured nature of Julian is brilliantly communicated by Gosling without the aid of much dialogue.  The film’s mood is further enhanced by the mesmerising Cliff Martinez soundtrack.

Icon CEO, Greg Hughes thanked the Sydney Film Festival for the award and for their continued support of “bold and visionary filmmakers like Nicolas Winding Refn”.  He further stated, “Icon is proud to be bringing ONLY GOD FORGIVES to Australian and New Zealand audiences.”

ONLY GOD FORGIVES will release In Cinemas July 18
Releasing on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital on November 20