I have just emerged from two feral weeks down the Melbourne International Film Festival rabbit hole. I saw some whacky and wonderful films and just love the whole experience: the chance to immerse myself, virtually, in other cultures without the cost, angst or in some cases the danger of actually having to travel there; the sense of being in the midst of usually packed audiences of people who share a passion for 'art house' films; the insanity of choosing to spend glorious Spring-like days hunkered down inside; and even the red-eyed decantation into the twilit city and stumble to the tram stop after a day's over indulgence in dark pleasures. Bring it on - I feel very grateful that this opportunity comes around annually, as it has for the past sixty years.
I had my favourites:
Life in a Day, a distillation of film taken by people across the globe on a single day in July last year, was intensely moving and amazing, not least because of the speed of its post production, which enabled such an ambitious project to be aired in less than a year.
Foreign Parts was uber confronting as it trawled through the daily lives of a marginalised community of auto workers and their families living in a streets-wide junkyard in the shadow of New York's multi-million dollar state-of-the-art new stadium. With its pot-holed streets, predominance of Spanish speakers, homeless occupants and blighted buildings, for the first ten minutes I misunderstood and thought I was looking at an impoverished area of Puerto Rico. I have never before seen a film devoted exclusively to investigating the underclass in one of the world's richest countries, and their resilience, care for each other and attachment to their community was extremely moving.
The Hungry Tide, by veteran film maker Tom Zybrycki, who both introduced the film and participated in a Q & A afterwards, is the film I am hoping to write an article about. It follows Maria Tiimon, an environmental activist from Kiribati currently based in Sydney, as she struggles to alert the world to the devastating impact of climate change on her Pacific homeland. Maria was part of the Pacific delegation to Copenhagen, where she argued passionately (to small audiences) that climate change is fundamentally an issue of social justice. The film addresses the hard question of relocation, what it means to individuals and communities and the inevitable grief and loss of culture and identity it entails. Although President Anote Tong argues for ‘up-skilling’ and the advantages of experiencing other cultures, Kiribati workers who travel to Australia’s Robinvale pick almonds on huge farms by day, return to their isolated housing at night and have no real contact with locals. Forget the fact and figures, the generalisations and the political wrangles, the human face of climate change is unashamedly what this documentary is about, and it captures it brilliantly.
You can see why I don't need to travel all the way to Queensland to escape Melbourne's cold hard winters!