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2006 Melbourne Underground Film Festival: Reports

By Mike Everleth ⋅ July 9, 2006

Logo for Melbourne Underground Film Festival featuring yellow text on a black background

The 2006 Melbourne Underground Film Festival is in full swing right now and still has several days to go as of this writing.

I haven’t read too many reviews of the festival thus far, so I don’t know how it’s working out. The Age, an Australian newspaper I take it, does declare that the festival has its “filmic pedigree assured” in a headline and offers positive reviews of a few films, including Blue Notes and When Darkness Falls, and gives the “overall prize for unpleasantness” to Roseberry 7470, directed by Stefan Popescu. Of course, these were written before the fest actually started, so I can throw in my own choice review: The bizarrely fascinating Waiting for NESARA, directed by Zeb Haradon, which I just watched on DVD.

However, what seems to have really struck a nerve is festival director Richard Wolstencroft‘s Director’s Statement. As its critics note (and whom I’ll get to shortly), it’s kind of a rambling piece that complains that all of Australian cinema is choking on “tokenism,” in that it produces placid bromides that disguise and thus further exacerbate real social problems by skirting around them, e.g. the poor living conditions of Aborigines.

As I noted earlier that’s a reasonable complaint and not one strictly limited to Australia. However, the oddness comes in that if this year’s MUFF is dedicated to the issue to tokenism, there’s actually barely a fraction of political films playing at all. Most of the features, as I noted, is the typical fare of underground film fests in general, none of which hit up the topics Wolstencroft mentions in his Statement.

Which is all fine by me. Sounds like there’s some great and interesting films playing, so the predilections and obsessions of the director don’t bother me.

But not so for director Toby Zoates, who recalls on his blog his experience at last year’s MUFF in which his film Virgin Beasts played. For all of Wolstencroft’s bluster about building a genuine Australian film “community,” Zoates claims he got what we call in America the “Hollywood blowoff.” Toby also blasts Lloyd Kaufman and Troma Films for screwing him on DVD sales.

Next, @ndy at Slackbastard delves into Wolstencroft’s fascist tendencies and digs up a terse, bad review of the director’s own film Pearls Before Swine. @ndy’s post is actually kind of a short one, but go into the comments to get the real debate.

Finally, the Esoteric Rabbit (filmmaker Matthew Clayfield) has an opposing viewpoint after meeting Wolstencroft for the first time at the MUFF Opening Night event. He gets along well enough with the controversial director, but dislikes the opening night film, Jon Hewitt’s darklovestory, calling it “conventional.”

For more info on MUFF, visit the fest’s official website.

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