Saturday 22 September 2018

The AFI/AACTA Awards - a few notes, a few questions

The Pretend One (Poster)
“Are you OK?” Without question that is the line uttered most frequently across the totality of the entries in the 2018 AFI/AACTA Awards. Just saying. …

There are 38 films nominated for Best Film in the Competition for Best Australian Feature Film. 18 of these films are also nominated for “Best Indie Film” a category which requires that the film be made for a budget of under $2 million. The under $2 mill movies were often made for a lot under $2 mill.  A lot of heart and soul or as one writer/lead actor advised. “This film was made with a lot of love because we had no money.” 

All 38 films will, by the time the screening schedule is complete, have been screened once in Sydney Melbourne and Brisbane at AFI/AACTA screenings either through the year or at the AACTA Festival. Attendances vary. For some, including where some of the film-makers were present, less than a couple of dozen spectators were on hand. The screenings of course get no favours. The Sydney Underground Film Festival, increasing in popularity is the word, and the behemoth Italian Film Festival with dozens of screenings at all the Palace Cinemas were on at some or all of the same time.

Included in the 38 titles are the films Gringo (Nash Edgerton) and Boy Erased (Joel Edgerton), both made in the USA, the former produced or acquired by industry megalith Amazon and the latter produced by Focus and by Anonymous Content and acquired by Universal for local distribution. 

In the case of Gringo the booklet states that it has been ‘deemed eligible to compete in the listed categories as it received the Department of Communications and the Arts’ PDV Offset and features Australians in key creative roles.’ The same is said in regard to The Lego Ninjago Movie (?, No director credit is included in the AFI/AACTA booklet).

Nor is there anything in the  booklet which explains how Boy Erased  came to be entered or accepted for entry. Maybe it’s because Edgerton also acts in the film along with Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman in supporting parts. Whatever. The audience gave it a good clap but nowhere near as good a clap as that received by Survive or Die (Daniel Okoduwa & Mike Kang) or even Indigo Lake (Martin Simpson). The applause for the two latter could possibly be explained by the fact that both audiences were significantly enlarged by many of the cast and crew being in attendance and thoroughly enjoying themselves.

You do however have to wonder how it is that Boy Erased, a film made in America, about Americans and American issues, from a memoir by an American, financed by an American company, distributed by an American company and whose credits list no significant Australian contribution beyond the presence of Joel Edgerton in front of and behind the camera, Nash Edgerton on stunts and the roles for Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman, gets deemed to be eligible for the AFI/AACTA Awards.  Of course I don’t know whether all of the more than a dozen people listed in the booklet are in fact Australians. Maybe all of them are.

But if not, you also have to wonder how it is that all the various guilds and professional associations haven’t hit the roof at having to compete with an American movie in the local awards.  ....Whatever. Maybe I missed it.

Actually, the credits in the booklet are quite interesting and indeed varied. For some titles, most notably the abovementioned Survive or Die, only a couple of names are listed. For others a quite extensive list is provided and on 26 of the titles the Casting Director is listed. Is there a casting award? What have I missed here? Whatever.

One thing the booklet doesn’t specify is the form of any government assistance provided to the production. If you sit through the end credits its sometimes possible to work out which films had taxpayer funded largesse and which didn’t. You shouldn’t assume that the eighteen films eligible for “Best Indie Film” have all been made without taxpayer assistance but you should assume that some of them have.

The Pretend One
So, among the “Indies” I have already passed some comments on West of Sunshine and The SecondStrange Colors and on Brothers' Nest.  Barrie Pattison has reviewed Jirga.  I haven't seen all eighteen of the entries but did write earlier about Angie Black's  The FIVE Provocations.  

Geraldine Hakewill, The Pretend One

The story of The Pretend  One  is a delight, smart, funny, something imaginative to set it apart from many of the others which are derivative and reliant on the tropes of far better models and predecessors. A young woman, living with her bitter, solitary father on a cotton farm, keeps her imaginary friend until well into womanhood. He's very much alive and present, at least for her. It drives dad nuts but the imaginary friend, increasingly mean and bitter himself as the arc of the story takes her away from him, provides much of the humour. People are going to work out their lives and priorities in a quite detailed environment whose peace is disturbed by the arrival by the arrival of a handsome young journalist who wants to get the town story down. This meeting in the pub isn’t like TV and Heather Ewart’s Backroads  by the way. The almost entirely male denizens of the pub are a mostly ignorant bunch full of beer, bile and grumpiness, not at all saintly, generous, tolerant outback folks of legend. It all works out mostly for the best and there’s more than a smidgin of sentimentality but the treatment of the imaginary friend, of peoples’ lives changing for the better and the bit of suffering that has to be borne is really well done, filled with imaginative turns.

I fear for the film of course. It's got a 2017 date on it so its been around awhile already. It's unlikely that it will win anything. It seems unlikely it will ever get any reviews. It may not even get shown anywhere else. Them’s the breaks, but if writer James Raue, director Prescott and producer Dinusha Ratnaweera come knocking then somebody doling out taxpayer-funded largesse should hear them out and give them enough money to make another modest movie. 

With this film, and with Strange Colors (Alena Lodkina) and The Five Provocations (Angie Black) mentioned above, we have some films this year that actually make you think there is some talent out there to nurture.

1 comment:

  1. You have excelled in your description of contemporary Oz cinema.


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