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Maybe Tomorrow

Australian, Australian New Wave Filmmakers, Festival, Film Festival, Review, This Week Leave a Comment

‘Why even try?’ is perhaps the central question of Maybe Tomorrow, the latest indie from Melbourne filmmakers Caitlin Farrugia and Michael Jones (Lazybones). Why try doing something when you are low on money and time? Or what about that big dream of yours, eh? Why bother if your priorities are going to suddenly change?

Who are all these questions being hurled at? Well, that would be young Melbourne couple Erin and Patrick, played by Tegan Crowley and Veteresio Tuikaba. Both are bursting with energy as they discuss the film that they’re going to be making together when their bubble of creativity is burst by the cries of their new born child. It’s not a cold moment, but it foreshadows the rollercoaster journey they will take in the pursuit of artistic expression.

Patrick appears to think nothing of mixing filmmaking with parenthood. Whilst Erin works at a coffee shop to pay the bills, he plays househusband, strumming the ukulele to his child and working out the schedule for the shoot. It’s the kind of free time Erin perhaps misses, when compared to the short time she gets to have at the end of the day with her family and the screenplay she’s poured her heart into – a screenplay which appears to be a release for Erin, in which the scenarios she writes about and even the actors she chooses seem to echo parts of her life with Patrick. So, when her story, including a literal car crash of a finale, begins to be reshaped by outside forces, you can really sense her frustration simmer. Meanwhile, the housebound Patrick is sabotaging his own attempts at making new friends as a father.

Let’s be clear, Maybe Tomorrow is not a mopey kitchen sink drama. Rather, this a playful dramedy. Whilst Patrick storyboards scenes with baby toys and paints any potential new friends as ‘racists’ before he’s even met them, Erin struggles with auditioning actors and their egos.

Farrugia and Jones are clearly having a lot of fun as they make fun of their own world. Upon being asked by Erin what previous parts she’s played, a young Asian actor lists every cliched role that’s beholden to people of colour in Australia: ‘best friend, servant, sex trafficked woman…’

As the couple at the centre of everything, Crowley and Tuikaba share an adorable chemistry as they play with their baby, playfully bicker about whether veggie pasties are really food and not so playfully bicker about film budgets. It says something about their performances that when the filming schedule applies pressure, you find yourself incredibly protective of them.

Loving and warm, Maybe Tomorrow is a charming portrait of new parenthood and the complexities of film production.

 
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Ben Wheatley: Lone Ranger

Making his name with mayhem-laced thrillers and horror comedies, Ben Wheatley’s dysfunctional family drama Happy New Year, Colin Burstead, may seem like an odd choice for the Brit filmmaker.
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Pluck (A Film Not Really About Chicken)

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

Ad pitch: Mugabe sits in his empty palatial dining room reminiscing about the friends he’s lost. Friends such as Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi. As the soundtrack of Mary Hopkin’s Those Were the Days reaches its crescendo, we’re reminded that no one should have to eat alone. The product? Nando’s 6 pack meal deal, obviously.

This is one of the many near knuckle marketing campaigns headed by the chicken restaurant that’s seen them become one of the most well-known brands in South Africa. The documentary Pluck compiles a selection of their best and worst campaigns in order to paint an alternative political history of the country, whilst those behind the brand talk about the real-world events that shape their creativity.

Let’s be honest, any documentary that focuses solely on a company’s legacy – particularly one which they’ve given their blessing to – is in danger of being indulgent from the beginning. Thankfully, Pluck manages to fall on the right side of back-slapping. Created in 1987, the Johannesburg franchise dropped into a political landscape that was – and still is – deeply complicated. Poking fun at the establishment wasn’t just a way to get noticed. For many at Nando’s it was about defusing tension. And if they sell a bit of peri peri sauce, then so much the better. In fact, one creative remembers that he got so involved in holding a mirror up to the society that they realised three ads into their campaign that they hadn’t actually mentioned any of the products they were selling.

Amidst the lampooning and caricatures, Pluck reminds the viewer of what could be at stake. Whilst Nando’s copped its fair share of viewer complaints, with ads involving blind people and, at one point, a certain Uruguayan rugby team trying to stay alive, they could also incur the wrath of the politicians that they mocked. The aforementioned Mugabe ad resulted in threats of violence and death being aimed at staff in Zimbabwe, whilst the then leader of the African National Congress Youth League, Julius Malema took great offence to being portrayed as a literal political puppet, going so far as to demand a face to face apology.

Naturally, everything is a product of its time and some adverts will likely raise a quizzical eyebrow with their attitudes towards gender. In particular, it’s hard to fully rally for the ad exec who claims the stereotypically camp gay couple used in his campaign was championed by his LGBT friends who were just thankful for the representation. Thankfully, other talking heads are more candid when it comes to their company’s more problematic moments.

While its message of laughter is the best medicine and everyone is equal in the eyes of comedy is nothing ground-breaking, as an independent documentary, Pluck indeed wins for its approach to one of history’s more splintered political arenas.

 
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The State Against Nelson Mandela and the Others

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

In 1963 South Africa, seven men were charged and put on trial for over 200 counts of sabotage with the intent to ‘ferment violent revolution’. Their names were: Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Raymond Mhlaba, Elias Motsoaledi, Ahmed Kathrada, Denis Goldberg and future president of the country Nelson Mandela. The trial was condemned by a branch of the United Nations and led to international sanctions.

The documentary The State Against Mandela and the Others is well aware that for many this trial is perhaps most famous for being the one that put Mandela in prison for nearly 30 years. Describing the rest of the group as ‘the others’ in its own title, the film is a tongue in cheek dig at this public knowledge, whilst also clearing a pathway to understanding who these other men were.

Directors Nicolas Champeaux and Gilles Porte sit down with those who were accused, and still alive, to talk about their lives before they fought apartheid and their thoughts and feelings during the court case itself. Those no longer present are represented by family members, such as Winnie Mandela, who cast light on how the men’s actions reverberated through their wives and children. Their conversations are frank and often charming, with the men still possessing the same sharpness they displayed in court.

Rather than simply being a series of talking heads, however, The State Against Mandela and the Others uses the 256 hours of court recordings to tell the men’s story through animation. Through surprisingly clear audio, we hear every word, cough and gavel slam as the men come under the scrutiny of chief prosecutor, Dr Percy Yutar. Faced with the death penalty, the seven men used their time on trial to highlight their cause and it’s clearly frustrating for Yutar as they weave around the questions hurled at them.

Often surreal in its depictions of its ‘cast members’ – Yutar is portrayed as a giant Bela Lugosi type who glides into frame – the animation allows the men’s words to run loose into landscapes made up of shapes and patterns as well as more traditional means of depicting the story. It all becomes rather hypnotic and yet, manages to both bolster and distract from the words spoken.

A shortcoming of the film arrives in the condensing of the court audio. Whilst there’s perhaps no call to hear every single second of the trial, there is a thought at the back of the mind that Champeaux and Porte’s approach to the Rivonia trial could be best suited as a mini-series, allowing the story and its protagonists a chance to breathe. Instead of hurtling – understandably due to time constraints – to the end. This is a mild criticism perhaps that’s more a testament to what is happening on screen and the desire to know more.

With a heavy subject given a light touch via animation, The State Against Mandela and the Others is an interesting take on an important chapter in apartheid history.