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The Tunnel: The Other Side of Darkness

Australian, behind the scenes, Documentary, Festival, Film Festival, Horror, Review, Streaming, This Week Leave a Comment

Directed by Carlo Ledesma (Sunod) and written by Julian Harvey (My Year of Living Mindfully) and Enzo Tedeschi, 2011’s The Tunnel is a homegrown horror that this year celebrates 10 years of scaring the bejesus out of people. Framed as a documentary about a bunch of murders beneath the heart of Sydney, the film is part The Descent, part The Last Broadcast. If you haven’t already seen it, it’s definitely worth a spin in the old Blu-ray player.

What made The Tunnel capture the attention of not just horror fans, but the mainstream Aussie press was how its creators financed and distributed the film. Its $135k budget was achieved by Harvey and Tedeschi – who also took on the role of producers – pre-selling individual frames at a dollar a pop. When it came time for release, The Tunnel made waves by being the first Australian film to be distributed legally through BitTorrent. Yes, that BitTorrent. The one your mother warned you about.

The Other Side of Darkness revisits the production of the film from Harvey and Tedeschi’s first brainstorming session right through its eventual release in a physical format. Director Adrian Nugent is offered an unfiltered look behind the curtain via interviews with The Tunnel’s main players as well as exhaustive behind the scenes footage. See the crew realise that their next backdrop is an asbestos playground! See actor Goran D. Kleut, who plays the film’s antagonist, failing to not look scary even when he’s joking around! Watch as Julia Gillard becomes an unwitting extra in a moment the crew looks back on, perhaps with a touch of glee, as a shocking lack of security. Nugent paints the picture of a group of artists who went in prepared for all eventualities, except for when they eventually unleashed The Tunnel on to the world.

Having promised those who had crowdfunded the film that it would be distributed freely to everyone, Harvey and Tedeschi found themselves in a tricky situation where they had a distributor who was unsurprisingly nervous about legal downloading. Afterall, at that time, piracy had reportedly cost Australia $1.37 billion in lost revenue. Anyone would be cautious getting in bed with your enemy. This is by far the meatiest part of the documentary, as everyone involved tries to keep their head above unchartered waters. You can’t help but cheer the producers on, even when sobering reality comes in the shape of warehouses filled with unsold DVDs, all from cancelled orders by stores getting cold feet.

Truth be told, perhaps The Tunnel hasn’t made the impact commercially in the same way The Blair Witch Project did. However, the numerous cameos from other Aussie directors, including Kiah Roche-Turner (Wyrmwood franchise), highlight the theme of the documentary: Seize every opportunity with both hands and never be afraid to actually reinvent the wheel once in a while.

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All Films Great and Small

We speak with writer/director/editor Jordan Giusti (and co-producer Chris Luscri), about his short film Reptile, which won the Best Emerging Filmmaker Award at the Melbourne International Film Festival.
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Pompo The Cinephile

animation, Asian Cinema, behind the scenes, Review, Theatrical, This Week Leave a Comment

Artistic ideals are difficult to live up to. The belief that art, cinema in particular, has the power to accomplish the wondrous can light a fire in the heart, but it often has to be reconciled with compromise… Sacrifice. Especially of the artist, possibly more than they are willing to give up.

In this latest animated feature from director Takayuki Hirao (Death Note, Gyo: Tokyo Fish Attack) and animation studio CLAP, we are given precisely 90 minutes (minus bookending credits) of that dichotomy in action. With the help of a loli-fied Roger Corman, because Japan.

The titular Pompo, a child who inherited her grandfather’s film studio, specialises in producing trashy B-movies that are more interested in sex appeal than any kind of ‘prestige’ status. While her statements on the industry range from glib (“Happiness destroys creativity”) to bracing (“Making a tearjerker moving is easy, but making a silly film moving takes genius”), she embodies the almost-childlike idealism required to keep hold of that spirited perspective of cinema. She keeps the film on a tonal path reminiscent of La La Land or maybe even The Comeback Trail, where the harsh reality of the industry is tinted with a rosy glow only found in the world of dreams.

Not that this is entirely her story, though. More so, it centers on Gene Fini, one of Pompo’s assistants, who she gives the opportunity to direct and edit his first feature film. The visualization of his creative process, from constructing how his film looks to the almost DBZ-style Shonen imagery of him at the editing desk, has Hirao and CLAP doing some serious flexing on-screen. The animation here is simply gorgeous, with highly creative scene transitions to show that the production’s admiration for the editing process is more than skin-deep.

As the audience sees Gene and his baggy eyes dart through all the collected footage, first-time actress Nathalie dealing with her own nerves, and Pompo being the epitome of hyperactive anime girl, the goals of Hirao as director and Gene as director-stand-in align: They want the watcher to find themselves in the art. Amidst the shaky but ultimately resonating depiction of ‘Nyallywood’ and its inner mechanics, auteur theory shines through brightest in the film’s larger understanding of cinema as a deeply personal and self-sacrificing practice. It arguably goes further into romanticisation than even La La Land, but as portrayed by these highly relatable characters, it still manages to win out.

Pompo The Cinephile is a child’s dream of making it in the movie business that highlights just how many artistic dreams are themselves borne from what is too often decried as ‘childish’ thinking. Bolstered by a very personable cast, a tremendously quotable script, and visuals to die for, it’s an animated film that should offer entertainment for filmmaker and audience alike.

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Ten Percent

Acting, behind the scenes, Home, Prime Video, Review, Streaming, This Week Leave a Comment

Taking workplace comedy to a whole new level, Ten Percent explores the day-to-day workings of the showbusiness industry, where the lives of the agents behind the scenes are all equally, if not more bizarre, than those of the celebrities they’re trying to corral.

Based on the 2015 series Call My Agent!, the show takes an original French premise and repackages it with a British accent, putting enough of a unique spin on the concept and characters along the way that devoted fans of the original series won’t feel as if they’re watching a pale imitation.

The turbulent world of this London talent agency juggles a slew of big-name celebrities alongside their own interpersonal drama, scrambling to keep the talent happy while never losing focus on what is the ultimate drive of the story—the tightknit family of misfits that make up the Nightingale Hart Agency.

The celebrities aren’t shy about playing exaggerated versions of themselves, but the biggest laughs come from the harried team of agents dealing with impossible situations, more often than not made increasingly worse by their own absurd hijinks.

Receptionist Zoe (Fola Evans-Akingbola) spends her days fielding phone calls and making tea for anxious celebrities, all the while longing to be an actress herself. Fresh faced new assistant Misha (Hiftu Quasem) is desperate to prove herself, while at the same time doing everything she can to hide a secret that could shake the Nightingale Hart team to its core; and Jonathan (Jack Davenport), son of co-founder Richard Nightingale (Jim Broadbent), is just trying to keep his head above water.

Above all, it’s a love letter to films, to theatre, and to the eccentrics who make up the industry, with cameos from a truly impressive line-up of UK stars including Helena Bonham Carter, Dominic West, and Bridgerton’s Phoebe Dynevor to name just a few.

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