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Bam Bam

Australian, Documentary, Festival, Film Festival, Review, This Week Leave a Comment

Jemma van Loenen’s documentary introduces audiences to Bianca ‘Bam Bam’ Elmir, a young boxer from Canberra, on her quest to win a World Boxing Championship.

Elmir is a determined fighter who will let nothing get in her way. A Lebanese Muslim, who has won multiple Australian and International Championships, Elmir faces many obstacles – getting her family’s approval, the views of her community, opponents in the ring, among others. Elmir at one point is barred from fighting, due to a drugs ban.

Despite her unorthodox nature, and the odds stacked against her, the boxer revels in victory.

Winning supersedes everything. This is what she does it for. To stand victorious.

Elmir’s an individual who thrives on smashing expectations: she takes part in a Muslim Mardi Gras Event; her coach tells her not to go out and drink, she goes out until 4am; she enters a match a significant underdog, and wins handily.

She has no issues reflecting on, and savouring the gory blood of her opponent, and subverting her family’s expectations.

She relishes the fear in her opponent’s eyes, that moment before they receive the knockout punch.

But despite all her victories and tenacity, at the end of the day, Elmir doesn’t quite know how to deal with herself when she’s not fighting. This is what the documentary is about – identity and the subject’s life away from sport. Her biggest fight is within herself.

Elmir’s coach talks about the qualities of the boxer, how she gives back to the community. Unfortunately, at times this feels like a lecture.

Cinematographers William Sheridan and Stephen Ramplin provide intimate footage of the athlete’s struggle, capturing this flight.

Director Jemma van Loenen ultimately serves up an absorbing story of an athlete dedicated to their sport, a portrait of an individual fighting for, and fighting against herself.

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Australian, Documentary, Review, Theatrical Leave a Comment

Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunipingu was a legend of Australian music. He was loved by many and continues to be loved even after his death in July of 2017. Gurrumul showcases the life that Gurrumul led, the highs and even the lows.

Directed by Paul Damien Williams, Gurrumul takes us into the life of Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunipingu, showing his beginnings in the music industry, with his time as the quiet guitar player of The Saltwater Band and when he met producer and long-time friends Micheal Hohnen and manager Mark Grose, and how they started the Skinnyfish music record company. Williams even chooses to show the very end of his music career, which was the final performance of his orchestral album at The Sydney Opera House.

The filmmakers showcase the life that Gurrumul led at his home, Elcho Island off North east Arnhem Land and the struggles that he went through as he was born blind along with the challenges his parents faced when they first realised their son was born blind.

There’s a bittersweet quality shown with Gurrumul’s relationship to his home, with touching footage of Gurrumul singing, juxtaposed with his people on Elcho Island. This shows that no matter how far Gurrumul got in the music industry, home was always a big part of him.

Gurrumul’s music career was not all highs, he went through low points during his life which included the time where he didn’t show up to his first American tour and the death of his mother and his father.

Gurrumul is a touching homage to the life of one of Australia’s most respected and beloved musicians. This documentary will make sure that he lives on and is never forgotten.

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Australian, Documentary, Festival, Review, This Week Leave a Comment

They’re a familiar sight for most of us: the peloton of amateur cyclers gathering on early mornings and weekends, wending their way through the roads and highways of our home towns and cities. Lycra-clad cyclists racing together come rain, hail or shine in a somewhat atavistic display of warrior brotherhood. Of course, there are plenty of women who ride too, though the subjects of this homegrown documentary are predominantly male: Middle Aged Men In Lycra (MAMIL).

It’s not a term that has achieved common household use, but it’s been seized upon as the moniker of choice for these men, perhaps because it sounds almost derogatory in nature, the flippancy belying the individual stories of the pain of mid-life, the commonality of the bewildering existence of the career-person and the yearn for community and substantive connection with other humans.

The subjects are varied: Perth and Adelaide-based charity riders as well as a variety of cyclists and groups throughout Australia, the US and the UK. War stories are shared, describing the ongoing fracas between motorists and cyclists and some disturbingly life-threatening road injuries sustained in the pursuit of challenging oneself mentally and physically amidst ‘the group’. Several men describe their personal battles through periods of severe depression, one speaking candidly of his suicidal thoughts at one point in his life, another dealing with throat cancer treatment, both finding strength and solace in their cycling communities.

It’s engaging viewing, though it’s not really about cycling, is it? There is strong evidence to suggest that the reason the average human-monkey crumbles under the weight of the stresses of modern life is that we are simply not meant to exist in expansive groups of disconnected, fragmented individuals cramming into soulless metropolitan sprawls. For thousands of years, we lived in small communities, hunted food and shared stories in small groups, most importantly; we suffered together and shared our human experience, in small groups. These instincts are strong in us, they call to us amidst the overwhelming and rapid advance of our societal structures; under it all we’re all still cave dwellers.

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The Pink House

Australian, Documentary, Review, Theatrical, This Week 1 Comment

Carmel Galvin is extremely houseproud. Every morning, she diligently dusts all the fixtures of her abode in anticipation of guests arriving. The fact that her home is a brothel, her fixtures are sex toys from, and her guests are johns looking for a good time may sound surreal, but it’s all in a day’s work for Carmel in The Pink House, a documentary from Sascha Ettinger-Epstein.

Prostitution is technically illegal in the state of WA, but that hasn’t stopped Madame Carmel’s brothel, Questa Casa, from being an integral part of Kalgoorlie for 100 years.

Working alongside her is BJ, the brothel’s longest serving sex worker. When we first meet the pair, as they potter through their nights patiently waiting for customers, there’s an air of Grey Gardens about the set up. (BJ even appears to be dressed as Little Edie at one point.)

What makes The Pink House so fascinating to watch is that it doesn’t try to sugar-coat their existence with attempts at titillation, instead it revels in the normality of their existence.

The Pink House touches upon the outside influences that are impacting business for Questa Casa, from the internet to sex trafficking, but, like Ettinger-Epstein’s previous film Destination Arnold that followed two indigenous bodybuilders, it’s the relationship between these two women that engages the most.

Carmel’s surprising amount of prudishness brings about a lot of the documentary’s humour, but the heart of the of the piece belongs to BJ, who regularly drops out of employment with Carmel due to a long-standing drug habit. Things become exceedingly darker when she becomes involved in a horrific murder. Throughout it all, Ettinger-Epstein wisely never judges her and when BJ eventually opens up about her family, it pierces through the frivolity.

The Pink House is a celebration not just of stoicism in the face of adversity, but also a portrait of the familial bonds that can form between two strangers in less than average circumstances.