Gurrumul

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: PGGurrumul

Written and Directed by: Paul Damien Williams

Produced by: Shannon Swan

Co-producers: Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, Mark T Grose, Michael Hohnen

Score by: Michael Hohnen, Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, Erkki Veltheim

Indigenous Liaisons: Susan Dhangal Gurruwiwi, Johnathon Yunupingu, Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu

Interviewees: Susan Dhangal Gurruwiwi, Michael Hohnen, Mark T Grose, Daisy Yunupingu (dec), Djuŋa Djuŋa Yunupingu, Terry Nyambi Yunupingu (dec), Erkki Veltheim, Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu.

On the 25th of July 2017, Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu passed away, aged 46.

In Yolngu lore the name, image and voice of the recently departed is retired from all public use.  A very rare exception has been made by Gumatj and Gälpu clan leaders for this film.

Three days before his death, Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu approved this film. It remains unchanged since this time.

All I could feel watching the life of Gurrumul was thankfulness.  To have a door opened into his world was an experience full of wonder; like a light was shone on a culture unseen or misunderstood.

Gurrumul is more than a documentary about music or a musician – the film gives insight into the Yolugu culture.

Growing up in the Galiwin’ku community on Elcho Island off the coast of Arnhem Land, Gurrumul became the highest selling Indigenous artist in history.  Gurrumul is a documentary about his rise to fame and how the meek was able to travel and reach out with his music to touch people around the world.

Gurrumul was born blind.  Living in a community filled with music and ceremony, Gurrumul embraced singing and the guitar (beautifully played even though held up-side-down), because it made him happy.

His family felt bad for him because they thought he could never travel far from home.  But never underestimate.

With the help of Michael Hohnen and Mark Grose and their record label, Skinnyfish Music, Gurrumul became a household name.  But it was more than the music that held Michael and Gurrumul together, they became close friends – they became brothers.

It was hard going for Skinnyfish Music, dealing with an artist who refused to speak, where English was his fourth language.  It wasn’t about the fame or the money – it was about keeping the stories of his life alive.  There had to be something to resonate, to have meaning, otherwise – what’s the point?

It’s so refreshing to see someone who values the land, the animals in it; family and keeping the knowledge of the world and why we’re in it, alive.

Gurrumul’s aunty speaks about death, about life – where does it start?  Where does it end?

Watching Michael try to explain to the media in interviews what the saltwater crocodile means to Gurrumul – that it isn’t an animal to represent his people – that he is the saltwater crocodile, was amusing and fascinating.

It’s such a gentle unfolding I didn’t realise how strong the rising of emotion in response to the purity of his voice, the calling in the telling of his story in song.  Even in a different language I could still feel the meaning.  I’m getting teary writing about it.  Not from sadness but the exposure to such honesty of feeling.

There’s a brilliance in showing Gurrumul within a world so different to his own: being away from family, not speaking about himself – always Michael speaking on his behalf – because the Indigenous don’t speak about ‘l’, it’s always, ‘we’.  So, to leave on his own to go solo was a huge step.  But his to take; his life to share.

To have the opportunity to experience the world of Gurrumul, to be allowed into his community; into the life of such a private man from such a secluded community was to have my eyes opened (including that saltwater croc second eyelid!).

And the warmth of Michael and the team who put the documentary together have shared of piece of themselves for others to also see and enjoy.

A truly rewarding experience.

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Human Flow

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MHuman Flow

Director:  Ai Wei Wei

Producers: Andrew Cohen, Jeff Skoll, Diane Weyerman

Writers: Chin-Chin Yap, Tim Finch, Boris Cheshirkov.

Human Flow is a visual experience to be endured. A journey for the soul. A glimpse into the duty of care, and lack thereof, affecting our societies.

Forgotten places and forgotten faces reach out and I struggle to remain seated. To comprehend the magnitude of what film director Ai Wei Wei intended. The camera remains. Lost souls stare onto it, onto the abyss. Dignified, proud, hopeful. Despite everything.

Statistics and news headlines appear. Foreign voices makeshift the background. Subtitles demand the attention of the viewer. Everyone must seat and watch. There is no easy way out for us as there is no easy way out for the millions of refugees stranded across the globe.

Oceans of humanity flow, stretching as far as the next border, people like waves reaching for the coast, seeking relief after a long journey. Aerial views of makeshift camps. Tents set along trains never to halt. People resting on the side of the road. On the verge of tears. Vulnerable to disease, under the elements, moving ever forward with their loved ones. All borders shutting down.

The system collapses, numbers increase and countries build fences and walls with money that could be used in so many other ways. No questions are asked or aid provided. Left behind, human beings facing the most inhuman conditions in the history of our race.

Those who are victims of the circumstances, run for fear of persecution. Those who pushed them into exile remain immune. Those who watch, what are we? What am I, but a privileged voyeur? A far removed entity able to switch off my screen at any given time. Sheltered, fed, safe. Free. Ashamed of myself as I type these words. Dreading the moment I move onto the next thing, and forget.

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Faces Places (Visages Villages)

GoMovieReviews Rating:

 Written, Directed and Commented by: Agnes Varda and JRFaces Places

Executive Producer: Rosalie Varda

Associate Producer: Emile Abinal

Co-Producers: Julie Gayet and Nadia Turincev, Charles S. Cohen, Nichole Fu, Etienne Comar.

Chance gave JR, an iconic contemporary photographer/muralist with over a million Instagram followers his first camera. He found it, abandoned on a subway. Destiny introduced him to his biggest idol, legendary filmmaker, director, writer, visual artist, Agnes Varda.

Together, their love of imagery, of capturing the beauty of story in art and the story in impermanent faces resulted in their outstanding French documentary – Visage Villages (Faces Places).  

What they do with a simple black and white selfie is sheer artistic magic. As the pair travel through rural France ensconced in JR’s incredible photo truck– an instamatic camera on wheels – they unearth the extraordinary in the ordinary story rich faces of rural French villagers.

And then JR (34) dangling like a dapper clad Spiderman scales colossal heights hanging from scaffolding – think six shipping containers high –with acrobatic ease he pastes up giant scale photographs, high upon walls.

Through a photograph, Varda and JR immortalise the fragile impermanence of the face, that one moment in photographic time where the face and body stand heroic, silent in their quest to guard the permanent, to remain emeshed within the bricks and concrete of industry and remembered.

Just as the edges of a face blur in recollection and memory, there is a sense of urgency as Varda and Jr attempt to make permanent a shifting landscape of time.

None more tellingly shown than in the pasting of a young Guy Bourdin, up onto an abandoned German blockhouse, at low tide, on a beach in Normandy. Varda (89) had spent time with Guy, shooting the image back in the ’50s. The image has survived over six decades but as Varda and JR return the following morning the blockhouse and the beach remain, forever mismatched together but the image, washed away overnight, has vanished.

Everything is always changing. Great art and film is all art that lives on either in form or in the way it affects us when we meet it. Varda and JR remind us that moments don’t last but permanence exists in engraving and appreciating the present moment.

There are great, surprising and unexpected stories revealed in the worlds behind the faces, of the French villages, workers and farmers, worlds we know little about.

Like the goat farmer who bucks convention by refusing to burn off her goats’ horns at birth.

Or the speechless tears of a woman – pasted street front upon her home – the last inhabitant in a row of miner’s houses. The miners have vanished but their homes now abandoned, crumbling and decrepit remain, heroically stoic, reminding us of their stories.

Time and chance are lead roles within the documentary, Varda and JR had no plan other than to meet the people of the landscape and to let them, their amazing personal stories and the landscape dictate the mood and feeling of the art and documentary.

Within Visage Villages (Faces Places), Varda and JR supercharged with the power of improvisation, triumph in their tender exploration of human lives.  Varda and JR embed the faces and places of rural France within our psyches and as with great art, these images haunt and remain. 

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Mountain

GoMovieReviews Rating:

 

Directed by: Jennifer PeedomMOUNTAIN

Music by: Richard Tognetti and the Australian Chamber Orchestra

Words by: Robert Macfarlane

Narration by: Willem Dafoe

Principal Cinematography by: Renan Ozturk

Sound design by: David White

Edited by: Christian Gazal and Scott Gray

Produced by: Jennifer Peedom and Jo-anne McGowan

Filmed in: Antarctica, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, France, Greenland, Iceland, India, Italy, Japan, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Scotland, South Africa, Switzerland, Tibet, USA.

This is a film about mountains, from the need of humans to dominate, to the terrible beauty, destruction and indifference of creation: Mountain is a reminder of how small we truly are.

I experienced a rollercoaster of emotions from: a state of relaxation, my eyes drinking up the beauty of the slow evolution of story, the film opening on breathtaking panoramas of mountain peaks; to my heart pounding as I watched the madness of people leaping and skiing and bike riding and base jumping from awesome, vertigo inducing heights while the climber smiles as he hangs from the tips of his fingers, the expression both beautific and insane.

Arrogance crumbles when confronted with the immovable yet breathing life of the earth.  We’re just a speck in comparison, to the timelessness of the mountain, just a tiny speak. MOUNTAIN

Sometimes it’s just so good to take humans out of the equation – yet, Mountain is about the fascination humans have of the serene, cold, majestic indifference of nature.

Living in a world of increasing, mad-made controlled comfort, some crave the risk that’s been taken from our everyday lives – to go seeking for that feeling of being alive because at any moment the earth may fall, the vertigo may win, the avalanche may swallow and the oxygen might run out.

How do you make a documentary about mountains?

How do you show the phenomenon of nature?

Mountain is a symphony of poetry, imagery and sound.

Richard Toretti, the artistic director of the Australian Chamber Orchestra collaborated with director, Jennifer Peedom to put together this memorable documentary.

And I use the word collaboration as Mountain is equally weighted between the senses with the soundtrack given as much weight as the words and cinematography.  A concept called synaesthesia that fascinated Richard, where the stimulation of the sense leads to another becoming more acutely attuned.

The soundtrack consists mostly of classical, a point of difference as most of the adrenaline-fuelled high stakes mountain sports are usually backed by punk rock.  Yet, the classical really highlights the majesty of the mountains.MOUNTAIN

And the combination of sound and stomach clenching cinematography creates a thrill as people fly down slopes or jump into the air 1000s of feet above the earth, death defying leaps, where there really must be an element of insanity, to even think, yet, it’s not about thinking, it’s about feeling alive.

Yet, there’s more to this film then just the stimulation of the senses.

Director, Jennifer Peedom who previously won world recognition after the release of the documentary, Sherpa (2015), also touches the idea of the change in the challenge of mountain climbing: the climb becoming a wait-in-line scenario rather than an adventure, where the real risk is taken by others like the Sherpas.  Yet, the controlled destruction sometimes slips from mans’ grip.

Hence the fascination.

‘Danger can hold terrible joys,’ says narrator, Willem Dafoe, quoted from a book written by Robert Macfarlane.

This is a beautiful moment in the film, one of many, with skiers drifting through powdery snow, weaving between the pines to the sound of a Beethoven symphony.

The thread that binds the film is poetics from Robert’s book, ‘Mountain of the Mind’: an exploration into the concept of the sublime.

‘In the branch of philosophy know as aesthetics the sublime is a quality of almost overwhelming greatness and magnitude’.

And in this modern world it is just so refreshing to be reminded of this greatness of nature.

A wonderful escape and reminder that the earth breaths, Mountain is both inspiring and thought-provoking = Food for the soul.

All For One

GoMovieReviews Rating:

 

Produced by: Nick Batzias – Virginia Whitwell.All For One

Director: Dan Jones – Marcus Cobbledick

Writers: Marcus Cobbledick – Dan Jones

ALL FOR ONE follows the first five years of the GREENEDGE cycling journey.

A pack of men united by a spirit to excel and a shared aussie larrikinism– think lycra and rock and roll montages – who succeed spurred on by unquestionable matemanship in their quest to exceed as a team at the Tour de France.

This film doco is a must see as you are swept into their world descending the French Alps as adrenaline junkies on some of the world’s steepest roads.

We are swept in for one hell of ride, super charged with scenes giving us front row seats to impossibly steep and impossibly fast and fearless downhill descents. Unlike downhill skiers who perhaps have the imagery of landing in powder snow there are no such illusions for cyclists as they speed down tracks of metal, rock and tar.

The team’s joy and comradery on tour is infectious with the rousing musical songs of ACDC, Jet and Prodigy in the background. But unlike a rock and roll tour bus there is no excess on a cycling tour just marathon stretches of training, rehydrating and cycling.

In my favourite scene, the cyclists – armed with gladiator strength – face the infamous Paris Roubaix Cycling race.

The race ‘everybody hates to ride and everybody wants to win’, the race where spectators the world over line up to see firsthand the human sacrifice.

The Paris Roubaix is mythical and ancient – Napoleon is said to have advanced his troops over the patchwork track of cobblestones – cyclists carry names such as Spartacus and spectators line the edges thrilled by the prospect of blood sport.

The carnage is real – cyclists ride on with broken collar bones, blood streaming from face plants, bikes and bones litter the race track and the cyclists push on, their determination to finish and succeed is primal.

Of the 200 cyclists that enter the Paris Roubaix only 50 to 100 are expected to finish.All For One

This movie excels through the lens of documentary by revealing the intimacy of real people in their own real stories. Character biographies of cyclists such as Esteban Chaves, Mathew Hayman, Neil Stephens and Simon Gerrans unearth the message of the movie and the secret of their individual success.

The secret they each share is a willingness to get up each day regardless of their fears and circumstances and believing that each step they take in pursuing their dream will only bring that dream closer.

The message will reverberate with you as you depart the cinema. For 100 minutes, you have been swept into the raw pulse of hearts burning on fire with sheer adrenalin and unedited pure joy.

The effect is intoxicating and as a spectator sitting in a blacked-out cinema you soar vicariously through the pumping music rhythms and sinew of muscles and sheer will determined to not give up and win!

I left the cinema breathless, my heart racing, my spirit filled with adrenaline. Inspired by the driving spirit of humanity to overcome incredible odds in pursuit of our passions, I felt that spirit whisper, ‘yes you can, you know you can do this’.

Kedi

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Kedi

Directed by: Ceyda Torun

Produced by: Ceyda Torun, Charlie Wuppermann

Starring: Bülent Üstün

Music by: Kira Fontana

Cinematography: Alp Korfali, Charlie Wuppermann.

Dedicated to the street cats and the people of Istanbul who look after them, Kedi is a surprisingly philosophical film.

I’m a cat lover, always have been.  From catching wild kittens out on the farm to forever walking around with cat fluff on my clothes, no matter how much time I spend de-fluffing, there’s always my cat, Cloud’s (AKA Ching, Chong, Chunk’s) signature silver fluff adorning my outfit.

So, I went into Kedi thinking I was walking into a documentary about the culture of Istanbul and the history/relationship of the people with the wild cats who have roamed the streets for over 1000 years: Kedi is so much more and runs far deeper than a history lesson.

What really absorbed me into this film was not the cats but the people who have a relationship with one or many of them.

These are street cats who roam freely around the city but for some reason, they decide to adopt a particular human for food, affection and love.  To then become part of the family.  It’s not the people who are helping the cats, it’s the cats who are helping the people.

One man shared he had a nervous breakdown where no medication could help.  But when he started feeding the street cats he began to talk and laugh again.

There’s a real depth to the relationships between the people and these wild cats.  Leading to discussion about the personality of the cat to statements about the meaning of life.

And how cats are so different to us that they’re like aliens or even superheros with amazing powers, to climb and jump up seemingly impossible places and to always land on their feet.  Yet, we are still able to build a relationship with these bizarre creatures.

The cinematography allows the audience to get up close to the cats, to show the wild nature of their eyes, to follow them around to see their independence and freedom while lounging on the edge of a terrace five stories up, to the street level to see the demand for attention, for love or food or a passer-by wanting to touch their fur and giving them a pat.

It’s fascinating to see this indulgence and to see how tame the street cats really are, which leads to the contemplation of the people and how they reflect about their own lives when relating to their adopted pets.

I always thought of cats particularly when travelling overseas solo, as friends, and finding comfort when one decides to hang out on a chair next to me, keeping me company on my journey.

Kedi opens another layer, allowing the people of Istanbul to talk about their world view and the impact these roaming cats have had on their lives.  I could see the warmth of the people and their indulgence, the cats allowing their sense of adventure and humour to shine through, because these cats wouldn’t be adopting them otherwise.

A beautiful film about humanity and a realistic portrait of the day-to-day lives of the residents of Istanbul.  All captured with some crafty camera work.

A surprisingly thought-provoking film.

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LIFE, ANIMATED

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: PGLIFE, ANIMATED

A documentary by: Roger Ross Williams

Editor: David Teague

Cinematographer: Tom Bergmann

Composer: Dylan Stark, T. Griffin

Original Animation: Mac Guff

Based on a book by: Ron Suskind

Starring: The Suskind Family: Owen, Cornelia, Walter and Ron.

LIFE, ANIMATION is a documentary based on a book written by Ron Suskind, father of Owen who at age 3 was diagnosed with autism.

This is a story about Owen’s journey from childhood, to his devastating withdrawal at age 3, to his diagnosis of the pervasive developmental disorder of autism, through to miraculously living on his own in assisted residential care. All due to the Suskind family’s persistence and recognition of Owen’s ability to communicate through his understanding of the exaggerated emotional cues shown in Disney films.

Owen’s father, Ron, has used his journalistic skill in portraying the difficulties of autism: the constant overstimulation (due to lack of filtering of the external environment), the loss of understanding of words and the determination to release him from his autism prison.

I can understand how this documentary, directed and produced by Roger Ross Williams (Music by Prudence; God Loves Uganda), has won so many audience awards: Telluride Mountainfilm Festival, San Francisco International Film Festival, Full Frame Film Festival and the list goes on…

Not only a remarkable insight into autism, I found myself constantly smiling.

The Suskinds are just such a loving, supportive family, that every triumph is experienced right there with them. And Owen himself is a genuinely lovely guy. It’s such a pleasure to see him open up and become a young man.

Yes, there are difficulties, and I shed a few tears through-out the film, because that’s life.

I could relate to Owen’s difficulties, the falls we all take. And I could admire his tenacity to keep getting up and keep fighting the good fight: the losing of his voice and then finding it again.

This is a heart-felt story that is shown so well by the directing. And the soundtrack is perfect: there to amplify the moments without becoming intrusive. What amazed me the most was the original animation created by Mac Guff to depict Owen’s own imagined stories.

I could sense the amount of time and care put into this film and I have to say, it has really paid off. The film is a seamless journey, shown with emotion that is real and made relatable to everyone.

I laughed, I cried, I smiled and I learnt something not only about Owen and his battle with autism, I also found an opportunity to reflect on my own life journey.

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Louis Theroux: My Scientology Movie

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MLouis Theroux My Scientology Movie

Writer and Director: John Dower

Writer and Presenter: Louis Theroux

Featuring: Marty Rathbun, Steve Mango, Marc Headley, Tom De Vocht, Jeff Hawkins, Andrew Perez (as David Miscavige) and Rob Alter (as Tom Cruise).

After 25 TV specials focusing on some of the most intimate and angst-ridden aspects of the human condition: religion, racism, sexuality, criminal justice and mental health, Louis Theroux has returned with a feature film about Scientology.

Using actors mixed with candid interviews between Louis and the ex-members, the film shows an amusing determination to make the documentary with increasingly bizarre interactions with the current members of the organisation where the crew are followed, filmed and confronted. All the while Louis Theroux continues to attempt a balanced perspective of the church, but the strange behaviour and constant re-buffing of the Scientologists reveals a disturbing reality.

Marty Rathbun, an ex-member and at one time the ‘Inspector General’ (the most senior executives in Scientology), responded to Louis Theroux’s call to partake in the documentary. While re-enacting an abuse scene, Marty says to Theroux, ‘I thought you liked the idea of having your face ripped off.’

‘But that was only play acting.’

Where Marty responds, ‘Exactly.’

When Marty makes this statement, it really brought home the devious nature of the religion.

Marty goes on to explain how the counselling is conducted by the Trainers, and how anxiety is cleared through the use of the e-meter. If the machine registers a response while the subject is holding the paddles, then the thought causing the anxiety will be revealed and discussed with the counsellor until the machine no longer registers a response. That means the anxiety has been cleared.

An effective counselling technique that is no doubt very helpful to the person discussing and dealing with negative thoughts.

Marty then explains how the church plants the idea that every good thing that happens in your life is because you have cleared these anxieties and is therefore to be attributed to the church and to Elbert Hubbard. And then to go on and to also contribute every bad thing that happens to the fact you’re not practicing the principles of the organisation correctly and therefore everything bad thing in your life is your fault.

This is how the church of Scientology creates a psychological trap and therefore exerts mind control over its members.

I’d recently seen another documentary on Scientology, ‘Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief‘, also featuring Marty. Going Clear shows a negative account of the church’s practices with more focus on the tax exemption of the church as a registered religion.

Louis takes a more personal interest in Scientology with a genuine motivation to get the organisation’s side of the matter; which is continually rejected.

You can see that Louis is concerned that his advances towards the Scientologists are rejected because he’s brought Marty on board. And through-out the documentary there is tension between Marty and Theroux: an interesting personality clash where each man attempts to stare the other down.

I can understand Louis holding a negative view towards Marty, always wondering what this man has done as the ‘Inspector General’, and if he’s speaking against the church out of rejection and spite.

And here we can see the continued drive from Theroux, to be open and see the church in a positive light. But the church in its harassment and complete inability to even acknowledge Louise’s attempt at conversation only reinforce what Marty is sharing.

The success of My Scientology Movie is the revealing insight into the psychological damage that can be caused by just trying to the do the right thing, and showing the depth of control of the organisation, I mean church, that can, understandably, make you paranoid.