I hope that you have enjoyed what you’ve seen of our program so far, whether this year has seen your first time at UWA Somerville or ECU Joondalup Pines, or whether you’ve seen all seven films in our program so far and many more in years gone by. When I’ve been myself to see films again this year, I have each time seen both old friends and new faces.
Season Two contains several of my favourite films from my three years programming for this Festival. And after watching and considering a few hundred films for around ten months of the year, it sure does feel good to stop, and to finally share my choices. I’m already looking forward to seeing these films again with some of you.
The very first film you’ll see in Season Two is not a feature but one of four short films that have been commissioned and produced by this Festival and professional film crews, and developed by young people in Western Australia. We wanted to make films that gave senses of our state, and which were full of the personalities of their creators. These four films have been made very much with screening at our cinemas in mind, and we hope that they are only the start in adventures in film for their creators.
Our first feature film in Season Two is Gurrumul, a soaring and totally essential documentary about the great Aboriginal singer Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu. Gurrumul, who passed away just a few days after the film was completed after supervising it closely, was a giant of modern music, one who bridged Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australia with a piercing and direct beauty. Gurrumul the film is about his life and work, as well as the unique position he held, with deep connections in both the commercial music industry, and a vast Indigenous cultural landscape of Arnhem Land, Northern Territory. I think Gurrumul will leave you with the sense that something really extraordinary has just passed, or is passing.
On Monday 12 February we welcome director Paul Williams, Gurrumul’s close friend Michael Hohnen, who appears in the film, and Gurrumul’s cousin Jonathan Yunupingu. They will introduce the film and help celebrate Gurrumul’s life and legacy on this very special evening at UWA Somerville.
Lean on Pete, which plays here in its Australian premiere in late February, is a graceful drama about a young man travelling through Oregon in search of companionship and features a star-making performance from rising star Charlie Plummer. It also co-stars indie heroes Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire, The Big Lebowski) and Chloe Sevigny (Boys Don’t Cry), and has a rare sympathy and intelligence to the performances and direction, capturing so well what it can feel like to be fifteen years old, with wit and warmth.
Turning to this year’s retrospective for a minute, and our ‘Living Architectures’ program is a series of unique and playful films about buildings and the ways people use them. Koolhaas Houselife, one of five Living Architectures films in our program, is about a sleek modernist Rem Koolhaas-designed residence in Bordeaux in France and its irrepressible cleaner, Guadeloupe.
Back to the main outdoor program, and one of the most-loved and admired actresses over the years at Perth Festival, from Les Amants du Pont-Neuf in 1993 to The Wait in 2016, is Juliette Binoche. In her new film Let the Sunshine In, Binoche is in every scene, her character reacting to a series of romantic possibilities, and as usual she gives us complex and utterly relatable senses of a real woman and of lives really lived. About Binoche, director by Claire Denis says:
The screenplay called for a woman whose face and body are beautiful, and whose demeanour in no way conveys defeat. Someone for whom in love battles, victory is still possible, without however, ever assuming that the outcome is certain.
Foxtrot, another Australian premiere, is currently a front-runner for this year’s Oscar for Best Foreign Language film. It uses absurd humour and pathos to describe the experience of being in Israel’s military. But more than that, Foxtrot is about the effects of the military on an entire nation. Foxtrot truly is a one-of-a-kind film and essential at the cinema. It’s surreal, affecting, and made with a staggering degree of control over filmic style.
There is more absurd humour, in Under the Tree, a dark comedy from Iceland and another Australian premiere. This is a film that finds that the notion of neighbours being at war is pretty much universal. I know our audiences will delight in Under the Tree’s outrageousness, and this film has already proven an audience favourite at both the Venice and Toronto film festivals.
Gabriel and the Mountain is a Brazilian production, but is set and shot in four countries in Africa – Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya and Zambia. It’s about a real-life subject, a young traveller called Gabriel Buchmann, and Gabriel’s adventures in East Africa. I love this film its rich sense of what it can be like to travel in a place where no-one knows you. One aspect of this realness is that Gabriel’s real-life African friends portray themselves in the film. As the director Fellipe Barbosa says:
Most of them really loved Gabriel, so they were happy to relive the moments they shared.
Returning to Zambia, I am Not a Witch is perhaps the most distinctive and fresh film made anywhere in 2017, and is an extraordinary debut from Zambian-Welsh filmmaker Ryunago Nyoni. I am Not a Witch is a sometimes strange, often comical tale of Zambian witch-camps, a real-life phenomenon of superstition against women, and of one young woman accused very dubiously, of witchcraft. This is a vivid tale that can stand on its own or for a more global whole. I am Not a Witch plays exclusively at Somerville for one week only.
Pop Aye is from Thailand, and is a thoroughly charming film about a disillusioned man going on a gentle amble from Bangkok to his country hometown, in the company of his animal friend who happens to be an elephant. In some ways a film about a mid-life crisis and wanting to escape, Pop Aye is also about whether or can travel back to the past, and like many of the films in season two, is a window onto another part of our changing world.
The final film in this year’s Lotterywest film program is The Divine Order, from Switzerland. And did you know that in 1971 Swiss women were not entitled to vote? This uplifting comedic drama has a lot to say about the political as personal and collective action.
In a year that has seen the beginnings, perhaps, in a sea-change in the number of female directors bringing female-oriented subjects to screen, I’m happy that we can conclude our program with this film, with its illumination of recent history, that is not yet well-known.
From Arnhem Land to the Swiss Alps, the world remains strange and surprising. Cinema is still the best way of connecting people in space and time, and to experience all these stories and characters. I hope you enjoy watching these films as much as I have.
View our full Lotterywest Season Two Highlights Trailer below.