OnScreen editorial

Kirsten Krauth

It’s been a momentous couple of months and this OnScreen reflects the political concerns of filmmakers and writers. Many are starting to recount their experiences of September 11…I sat in a Sydney café watching television, surrounded by people pressed against the glass—like photos I’ve seen of the 1956 Melbourne Olympics—tears streaming. The streets were quiet. It made me see the city differently, the towering buildings suddenly threatening around our office, the planes flying too low over my house in Leichhardt. It’s affected our writers too, along with the recent election, which has galvanised people into action, the need to debate. Mike Walsh tackles the highly topical issue of asylum seekers and detention centres, and the incongruity of government agencies (like the AFC) funding documentaries that question and explore the government’s own policies and problematic attitudes towards refugees. He speaks to a number of filmmakers, including David Goldie, about their involvement with upcoming projects. Meanwhile, Felena Alach and Joni Taylor link youth festivals with activism (Electrofringe and TILT Symposium), arenas where the digital and political collide—who can forget the Boat People image projected boldly onto the sails of the Opera House.

What these events haven’t affected is cinema going (unlike other areas such as performance). The recent IF and AFI awards highlighted the strength of the Aussie film field this year. I particularly enjoyed IF’s play with the awards format: one hour, no ads (SBS), a witty and politicised host (Liz Gorr) who had fun with the guests, the replacement of bimbos stiffly holding awards with a girl in crazy short tutu and a parrot on her shoulder, and genuine recognition of young and established filmmakers working in the areas of shorts and documentary. What the IF Awards recognised, finally, is that there’s no point trying to recreate the Academy Awards. Our industry is small, people know each other. The IFs had a family atmosphere. The AFIs were quite a contrast. Beautifully situated in Melbourne’s Exhibition Buildings, the stage looked to be about 100 metres from the audience and this feeling of distance persisted. A truly awful start (David Reyne and Marcia Hines singing Forever Young—cringe) led to an uncharacteristically careful performance from Roy and HG. Where was ‘the Dump’ on film culture? Some presenters were so nervous they could hardly speak, while others were so drunk they could hardly stand, like the Logies days of old. At nearly 3 hours it was low on entertainment and often failed to seriously acknowledge film talent—some Awards I was waiting for (in categories of documentary, short films and sound) were simply listed before the ad breaks.

As expected, Lantana was the winner on both nights, taking best director for Ray Lawrence and most acting gongs, including IF’s unusual stance of giving Best Actress to all 5 women in Lantana (Rachael Blake saw this as true recognition of collaborative effort).

In this edition Jane Mills starts our new column on issues in Australian film culture, Watchdog, with an interview with sound designer Andrew Plain (IF Award winner for La Spagnola, who also worked on Lantana and Facing the Music). Also featured are Monique Schwartz, Melbourne-based director of a film about Jewish mothers in cinema, ANAT Executive Director Julianne Pierce looking after the best interests of new media artists, the perils and pleasures of the personal documentary at the WOW festival, a virtual youth festival in noise, experimenta’s provocative Waste exhibition (see RTpost) and digital artist Troy Innocent goes seriously material.

RealTime issue #46 Dec-Jan 2001 pg.

© Kirsten Krauth; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 December 2001