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2007 Melbourne Underground Film Festival: The Aftermath

By Mike Everleth ⋅ October 10, 2007

Melbourne Underground Film Festival poster featuring psychedelic imagery

The 8th annual Melbourne Underground Film Festival has long come and gone. But there were a couple of controversies swirling around the fest this year that I thought could use some follow-up. Some of this is ancient news and you may have already heard it, but, well, I’m slow and lazy yet comprehensive.

1) Before the fest started, director Richard Wolstencroft threw down the gauntlet, calling out Sydney Underground Film Festival founder Stefan Popescu for basically stealing his idea for even holding an underground fest in Sydney. (This was SUFF’s first year in business.) While I was hoping for a fistfight, it turns out that both men came up with the same idea at the same time and, after some peaceful talks, the dispute was resolved in a very amicable manner. Rats!

2) Seven films were banned from screening at this year’s MUFF by the Australian Office of Film and Literature Classification. Last year, a film was also officially banned, but Wolstencroft just showed it anyway. This year, though, he complied. Good thing, too. According to filmmaker Tony Comstock, director of the banned Ashley & Kisha, cops showed up at the previously scheduled showtimes to make sure the banned films stayed banned! (Um, ridiculous.)

Wolstencroft wrote a scathing open letter to the OFLC that, as far as I’ve heard, has been completely ignored. Comstock took actions into his own hands and contacted the OFLC himself for further clarification and basically got the “hey, the system’s not perfect” blowoff. Tony’s also got a list of links to news stories surrounding the matter.

3) So, now a new controversy has arisen. Or, at least I’m trying to drum one up. But someone named Shane Lyons is starting up his own festival, the Melbourne Filmmakers’ Festival, and has started a blog to promote it — and to relentlessly slam both MUFF and Richard Wolstencroft. Here’s one of Shane’s typically hostile posts entitled “What’s Wrong With the Melbourne Underground Film Festival?” According to Shane, lots! But, his arguments are basically that MUFF gives short filmmakers the bum’s rush; shows too many films glorifying sex and violence; and Wolstencroft writes inappropriate director’s statements. Personally, I’d just like to say in response a) from now to, say, the end of time short filmmakers will probably always get screwed everywhere (except on the Underground Film Journal, natch); b) but that’s what’s fun!; and c) but that’s what’s fun!

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