By Jack Sargeant

My title is Program Director, but I always view my role as more curatorial. It’s not just selecting films, it’s thinking about what conversations are happening culturally and socially, how a work links to others in the program, how it fits in to the history of cinema, and so on.

A year like 2020 presented its own challenges, not least because the festival ran online in July and now is running in a hybrid format in December, screening at Luna cinemas in Perth, Fremantle and Windsor, as well as streaming online.

There are several films from the call for entries – two that really gave us that ‘what the fuck?’ moment: Execution (Stavit Allweis) and Real Bad Idiot (Alanah McKellar), which we are putting together as a double bill under the banner Wild Women Featurettes. Both films feel very contemporary, they are different but share a transgressive sensibility. But these films are both around forty minutes long, so too long to be shorts and too short to be features. I think one of the things that we do well is find a way to screen movies that many other festivals probably couldn’t. I think that desire comes from our backgrounds – Richard [Sowada, fest founder] started screening 16mm movies in clubs and I started programming underground film events, so we didn’t start in the traditional or mainstream industry – neither of us are worried by the challenges of getting the work out there because it’s in our blood to rise to these challenges.

Part of my history was writing about underground movies and underground art and that feeds into the selection of movies. Lydia Lunch: The War Is Never Over (Beth B) and Morgana (Josie Hess and Isabel Peppard) are both documentaries that deal with the underground or contemporary counter cultures; I hope that people come and watch them and leave inspired, but also recognise that these are documentaries that have been made by women about women, whether or not that effects the way in which their stories are told, I don’t know, but I think it matters.

Amongst other things we’ve done at Revelation is have music and film performances. I don’t think that people always realise quite how cool some of these are. I mean, over the last few years we had Lee Ranaldo from Sonic Youth performing a live soundtrack to Leah Singer’s video works, we had Goblin do a live soundtrack to Suspiria, and so on. We’ve also experimented with having live music just as part of the festival, so we brought Amyl and the Sniffers and Rackett over to play gigs too. We’re always looking at expanding things and we love music. With Covid, this is a lot harder, but we have a handful of music documentaries: Julien Temple’s Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan, which is fascinating viewing and Underground Inc (Shaun Katz), which tells the story of all the US noise rock and alt rock bands who were signed up in the aftermath of Nirvana. Of course, once we can have live soundtracks again, we will, and Richard and I regularly discuss what’s possible. Of course, this also depends on our budgets, and as a festival that prides itself on being ethically funded, that’s an issue.

Another thing that I feel matters is experimental film, and we always seem to have a strong experimental program that largely comes from our call for entries. This year we have two experimental shorts programs, as well as an experimental feature film 1000 Kings (Bidzina Kanchaveli). I think these sessions really show that moving image art / video / film is a medium that is still capable of being radical, that still has a power to challenge expectations. Richard especially is interested in the ways in which the experimental can be seen in digital media, games, VR and so on. We started off with a few events around VR, but last year Richard launched XR:WA which is a festival focused on new technologies, and a kind of sister festival to Revelation, happening the weekend before.

There’s also a great documentary strand that includes really powerful films, such as Alexander Nanau’s Collectiv and Barbara Kopple’s Desert One. These kind of documentaries really drive wider conversations, they make you reconsider the world and I think that’s a testament to the ongoing strength of the documentary feature.

If all of this sounds too serious, we’re also screening various genre works, two classic sixties Mexican exploitation movies by Rene Cardona, Batwoman and Night of the Bloody Apes, and this takes us right back to our roots – sharing our excitement for weird and neglected cult movies. A lot of conversations we have are about our love for weird movies, our excitement for unearthing things, our enthusiasm for ideas, and I think this all comes across in the program.

Revelation Perth International Film Festival is on December 9 – 20, 2020


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