Monday, September 15, 2008

News and Bits

This post is about nothing in particular, but there's a number of news items I thought were worth sharing.

Lynden Barber from Eyes Wired Open has posted about Steve Jacobs' (director) and Anna Maria Monticelli's (writer) latest film Disgrace winning the prestigious FIPRESCI Prize at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by celebrated author J.M. Coetzee. I was a big fan of the same team's previous film, La Spagnola, which had the great misfortune of opening on September 11, 2001. It received very little attention, though it has appeared on SBS television a couple of times since.

I, for one, look forward to Disgrace, which stars John Malkovich. Glenn at Stale Popcorn has assembled a few reviews of the film. Icon Films are distributing and have indicated the film will be released in early 2009.

Even more disgraceful...
... is news that the Australian Film Critics Association is hosting a screening of The Naked Bunyip at ACMI this Saturday at 4pm, followed by a Q&A with a panel discussion with AFCA members and the director, John B Murray. From AFCA:
In his first feature film, Graeme Blundell stars as an innocent young market researcher assigned to report on sex. In this raucous documentary he gets up close and personal - but too personal in fact for the censors of the time who demanded cuts to the film. Rather than remove the offending footage, however, Murray instead inserted bunyip caricatures and bleeps over the objectionable segments, infuriating the censors but making a bold statement about censorship. With a guest appearance by Barry Humphries (amongst many other prominent Australians) The Naked Bunyip helped to revive the Australian film industry.
I'll definitely be going to see this, not just because I happen to be an AFCA member, but because I find these Australian Perspectives screenings at ACMI a great opportunity to see these little gems on the big screen, even more so when there's a Q&A session with the director. I still remember being too young to see this film when it came out, and there being much controversy at the time. It was featured in Mark Hartley's Not Quite Hollywood. You can find film-maker notes on ACMI's website.

Palace goes digital
Palace Cinemas have moved into the 21st century with the announcement that two of their cinemas have installed digital projection:
Palace Cinemas is delighted to announce the recent installation of state-of-the-art 3D projection technology at two of its leading locations, Palace Balwyn and Palace Dendy Brighton Cinemas.

Committed to delivering the best possible cinema experience to audiences, Palace Cinemas have made the transition from 35mm prints to digital projection at the select locations, using the superior DOLBY 3D digital system.

This innovative new projection system delivers an immersive and unbeatable sensory experience, with outstanding picture quality, colour balance, clarity and the highest level of overall viewing comfort.

Also, with the increasing availability of digital 3D titles, starting with Journey to the Centre Of The Earth on September 25, and followed by the animated Fly Me to the Moon and James Cameron’s eagerly anticipated Avatar in 2009, Palace’s installation of the DOLBY 3D digital projectors will take movie-watching to the next level, allowing audiences to view breathtaking scenery, true-to-life action, and spectacular special effects like never before.

Executive Director of Palace Cinemas, Benjamin Zeccola, says, “3D and DIGITAL projection technology are exciting developments in the history of cinema and Palace is excited to be at the forefront of digital technology and state-of-the-art projection. We invest in superior technology to deliver the best; that's what Palace patrons have come to expect.”
I find this an exciting development and look forward to seeing the results on-screen.

Beyond Our Ken at the Nova
Beyond Our Ken is a local documentary about the Kenja cult that is definitely worth seeing. It is screening in Melbourne exclusively at the Nova. It is currently scheduled to screen until Wednesday of next week, so see it on the big screen while you can. Check out my review.

Ana Kokkinos' Blessed
No commentary from me, just the media release, which says it all:
From the director of HEAD ON and the writer of LANTANA comes BLESSED, a hauntingly evocative new feature film, to be shot on location in Melbourne Australia from October 6 until November 21.

BLESSED will mark the third collaboration between director Ana Kokkinos and writer Andrew Bovell, who previously teamed on HEAD ON and THE BOOK OF REVELATION, and will also reunite Kokkinos with producer Al Clark (PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT, CHOPPER), who produced THE BOOK OF REVELATION, and with internationally esteemed editor Jill Bilcock (MOULIN ROUGE, ELIZABETH), who cut HEAD ON. Additional key crew include award-winning cinematographer Geoff Burton, production designer Simon McCutcheon, costume designer Louise McCarthy and line producer Barbara Gibbs. Executive producers are Marian Macgowan, Ana Kokkinos, Phil Hunt and Compton Ross.

Based on the critically lauded play WHO’S AFRAID OF THE WORKING CLASS?, which writers Andrew Bovell, Melissa Reeves, Patricia Cornelius and Christos Tsiolkas have adapted for the big screen, BLESSED interweaves four profoundly moving stories which follow the poignant and compelling misadventures of six children as they wander the city streets through a day and a night. It’s a film about the depth of love between mothers and their young, and the life force that ultimately connects us all.

Kokkinos and Clark have assembled a remarkable array of acting talent to bring this contemporary urban odyssey to the screen, including Frances O’Connor (ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: AI, MANSFIELD PARK), Miranda Otto (LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING & THE TWO TOWERS), Deborra-lee Furness (BEAUTIFUL, JINDABYNE) and Victoria Haralabidou (BRIDES aka NYFES), who head a powerful ensemble cast.

Remarkable newcomers Anastasia Babouassouras, Sophie Lowe, Eamon Farren, Eva Lazzaro, Reef Ireland and Harrison Gilbertson star as the children. William McInnes, Wayne Blair, Monica Maughan and Tasma Walton complete the key cast. Casting director is Jane Norris (Mullinars).
Twelve Canoes
Yet another media release:

We are proud of our community. We are proud of our history and our present.

We are proud of our children, and our artists, and our songmen,

we are proud of our whole place.

Because we are proud of all these things, we are sharing them with you.

We live in Arnhem Land, in Northern Territory of Australia.

For long time our people been wanting to show our culture to the world.

We made that film, Ten Canoes. That was really beginning of it.

So now here is our culture, our place, our is 12 Canoes.

Different stories, 12 of them...Creation, and First White Men, all different parts of our history...The Swamp, and The Seasons, and Plants and Animals, all about where we live...Kinship and Language and Nowadays, how we live today.

And more than that. Everything put together is one story.

It is us, like a painting of our story.

Twelve Canoes is a website which paints a compelling portrait of the art, culture, history and place of the Yolngu people whose homeland is the town of Ramingining and the Arafura Swamp of north-central Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory.

The high-end site is a work of art in itself; honouring the people of the Arafura swamp, and built around twelve filmed “visual poems” describing and illustrating many aspects of Yolngu history, life and culture from Creation, Our Ancestors, The Macassans, First White Men, Thomson Time, The Swamp, Plants and Animals, and Seasons, to Kinship, Ceremony, Language, and a slice of contemporary life in Nowadays.

Other features of the site include galleries which showcase Ramingining art and artists, music and songmen, language and common terms, and photographs that capture the essence of life in the region.

The website has been created and developed by filmmaker Rolf de Heer and Molly Reynolds in conjunction with a consultative committee from the Ramingining Community including Peter Minygululu, Richard Birrinbirrin (associate producer on Ten Canoes), Philip Gudthaykudthay, Peter Djigirr (co-director of Ten Canoes) and Bobby Bunungurr, all community elders and artists in their own right.

“Back in 2003, while collaborating with the Indigenous Yolngu people of Ramingining to devise a story line for the film "Ten Canoes", a lot of material, of greatly varied subject matter, was brought in for discussion, with the individual Yolngu contributors each very keen to have their ideas incorporated, and that the film in some way should reflect the entirety of their lives, culture and history,” said filmmaker Rolf de Heer. ”There was soon general recognition that no film could achieve all that, and the idea of a website was born."

“Twelve Canoes has been developed with the aim of showcasing Yolngu culture, in particular the people of the Arufura Swamp, to the world. They are proud of their culture and homelands, and they are proud to invite the world to share this knowledge,” said project director Molly Reynolds.

The Twelve Canoes website was designed and built by Wanted Digital. Wanted Digital is a creative digital agency who specialises in high quality planning, design and execution of digital communications. Their ambition with the Twelve Canoes site was to create an immersive digital experience in which the design and navigation enhances, but never overpowers, the superb content.

Mark Eland, Wanted Digital Creative Director says “we saw this as a real opportunity to leverage the online environment's strengths by providing a experience that challenges DVD and cinema status quo by offering a more immersive state of engagement.” The site was designed to take advantage of engaging with high end video content through broadband access now and in the future. is being hosted by the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia through their website. The National Film and Sound Archive is Australia's national cultural institution committed to safeguarding and making as accessible the national collection of audiovisual cultural heritage to the widest possible audience.

Paolo Cherchi Usai, NFSA’s Executive Director said, “The NFSA is pleased to be the access and hosting partner in 12 Canoes as part of our commitment to support creative propositions using new technologies and to work in collaboration with Indigenous communities to support their cultural self-determination.”


Twelve subjects, each of which deals with a particular key aspect of Yolngu culture, place, or history, were developed, incorporating works of art, video material, stills, music and sound.

These twelve stories, poetic in nature with strong, sometimes ethereal imagery, are accompanied by words from different Ramingining story-tellers.

Creation tells of when the people of the area came into being. As there are many creation stories, this is the story of Dog Dreaming and his travels from the Swamp to the sea.

Our Ancestors describes the way the Yolngu used to live, in the old times, before the arrival of any visitors from the outside world, and how this society used to operate.

The Macassans, from the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia, were the first who came from another place. Long before the coming of the white man, the Macassans were trading partners of the Yolngu, who were introduced to cloth, metal, tobacco and sea-faring skills.

First White Men tells of the various wars, ultimately won at great cost to them, fought by the Yolngu to protect their lands and people from the encroachment by white man, including the Americans who tried ranching the land.

Thomson Time speaks of Dr Donald Thomson, the anthropologist who came to solve the turmoil in Arnhem Land in the 1930's. Thomson learnt language, lived with, studied and befriended the people and was a great advocate for them to government.

The Swamp describes the World Heritage listed Arafura wetlands just south of Ramingining. The Swamp and its people have a historical, cultural, economic and spiritual relationship which is now threatened by a number of factors.

Plants and Animals is about the diversity of plant and animal life of the Arafura wetlands and surrounding areas, and their continuing but fragile existence in a changing world.

Seasons is about how the blooming of a flower can tell you the sharks are being born in the sea; it is about the interaction of the changing life cycles that punctuate the weather patterns of the Yolngu year.

Kinship highlights the complexity and historical importance of family structure and ancestral relationships. The expression of kinship today has evolved, but its importance and complexity remain.

Ceremony is about the rites and rituals that describe aspects of the Yolngu inner life, the ceremonies that bind the community together and keep the people and their traditions strong.

Language tells the story of how the different languages were given to the different clans of people of the region and describes the relationship of the clan groups and the people as a whole to their languages.

Nowadays captures a slice of the contemporary way of life for the Yolngu in the township of Ramingining.

A two-disc DVD version of the 12 stories and selected video extras will be released through Ronin Films.
A study guide for schools is also available.

Twelve Canoes was produced with the assistance of the Christensen Fund, Screen Australia, the South Australian Film Corporation and the National Film & Sound Archive. The site has been developed by Wanted Digital.

The twelve stories screen together in a cinematic version which takes the viewer on a powerful and compelling journey over 66 minutes. This cinematic version world premiered at the NFSA’s ARC cinema in Canberra on 1 July.

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