Another year of the Revelation Perth International Film Festival is over and, as sad as we are to see it go, the quality of cinema on display has left plenty to celebrate. From biting domestic dramas to supernatural love stories, there’s been something for everyone. Now, as the dust settles on another year, there’s no better time to reflect on the films that we believe will remain in conversations for many months to come:
HAPPY NEW YEAR, COLIN BURSTEAD
Renowned British filmmaker Ben Wheatley’s career has taken some interesting turns, after bursting onto the scene with his low-budget affairs like Down Terrace, Kill List and A Field in England. He seemed to only be getting bigger and bigger, with star-studded affairs like High Rise and Free Fire, along with many rumours of potential big-budget projects in the pipeline. So, a very low-budget and semi-improvised familial dramedy, boasting an ensemble of some of Britain’s brightest and most overlooked talents, isn’t what people were expecting. Set entirely on New Year’s Eve, the titular Burstead family hire out a country house, but it’s quickly revealed that not everyone who was invited is necessarily welcome (namely Sam Riley’s sleazy David and a scene-stealing Asim Chaudry as Sham.) This is Wheatley’s funniest and most raw film to date, with the cameras and film zipping around from one conversation from this dysfunctional family to another. It’s exhilarating to watch, even if it doesn’t quite nail its landing.
A film that comes out of nowhere and shakes you to your core. Colombian filmmaker Alejandro Landes’ earth-shattering film follows a bunch of adolescent guerrilla soldiers holding a prisoner, only known as Doctora (Julianne Nicholson), hostage. There is no adult supervision, aside from a man named The Messenger (Wilson Salazar), who, true to his namesake, occasionally corresponds with the soldiers, as well as being the only real adult figure in their lives. Think Lord of the Flies but the kids are supplied with guns and drugs. Without giving too much away, things, of course, go awry and the adolescents are faced between either blindly following their psychopathic leader or risking everything. This is taut, earthy filmmaking with tension seeping from the ground and the sky, with Jasper Wolf’s immense cinematography successfully switching between almost surreally beautiful landscape shots to taut shots that study the faces of these internally fractured kids. Composer Mica Levi from Under the Skin and Jackie fame, also does incredible work, pushing her famously obtuse soundscape to the most extreme and distorted limits. It is tense and exhausting yet major work. Best of the fest.
The Final Quarter
While most of us were there when the booing fiasco during the final three years of Adam Goodes’ AFL career went down, no matter where we stood on it, most of us got to go home and move on with our own lives. Adam Goodes didn’t. Ian Darling’s archival documentary perfectly condenses the entire controversy into a horrifying and earth-shattering 72 minutes. There are no talking heads here, only archival footage (aside from an actor having to read shock-jock Alan Jones’ statements, as the filmmakers weren’t given permission to use the audio). This is a brilliant move, considering all that has been said, and all that had to be said on the matter, was already all there. Because we aren’t given any relief of tension with talking heads or newly recorded material, we are presented with a scathing portrait of Australian culture’s overarching denial and trivialisation of racism, as well as the discomfort many people have towards indigenous Australian’s expressing their culture. This is documentary filmmaking at its highest impact with potentially nation-wide consequences.
Above words by Jacob Brinkworth
Burning as slowly as the kerosene lamps that light their musky abode, The Wind is an achingly paced slice of supernatural-horror set in the throes of 19th century American frontier life. Centring on a husband and wife who carve out an existence amongst the vast, desolate wilderness, the couple’s lives are suddenly uprooted by forceful winds that cast a malevolent force into their home. Savvy horror viewers will probably already know that the supernatural in these types of slow-burn films is rarely meant to be taken literally, but The Wind frustratingly delays revealing its true meaning until the very end through a non-linear story structure that overcomplicates an otherwise straightforward narrative. Yet, it would all amount to nothing if the story didn’t come full circle by the end, and like an obtuse puzzle that takes time to piece together, The Wind feels complete once the credits roll. It’s like the devilish lovechild between It Comes at Night and The Witch, and while it falls short of either of those films, the lasting impact the finale imparts proves it to be a strong showcase of talent for all involved. In the case of The Wind, it’s the destination as much as the journey that makes it worthwhile.
One of the most exciting parts of attending the Revelation Film Festival is discovering a film that completely catches you by surprise and you quickly fall in love with. This year’s honour belongs to the side-splittingly funny, and disarmingly charming, supernatural love story Extra Ordinary. Reminiscent of Taika Waititi’s style of comedy, this Irish comedy is a quirky country town version of Ghostbusters where haunted buildings are replaced by possessed rubbish bins and levitating pieces of gravel. You know, the typical country stuff. However, for retired psychic Rose (played by the delightful Maeve Higgins), these sorts of possessions are an everyday occurrence and a cause of major stress. Ever since she hung up her hat as a medium following a deadly pothole incident, the daily manifestations act as a constant reminder of the world she left behind. So, when a desperate local man calls for help rescuing his daughter from a malevolent spirit, Rose begrudgingly accepts and soon discovers that the secret to finding love may just lie in exorcising the dead. The story elements may sound familiar, but the film’s habit of leaning into the quirks of paranormal activity makes for some truly unique, laugh-out-loud moments. Along with Will Forte in a noteworthy supporting role as a devil-worshipping, washed up rock star, Extra Ordinary moves between horror, comedy and drama without breaking a sweat. For a film to juggle so many disparate genres and emerge all the better for it is truly extra-ordinary. Seek it out as the film is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered.
Above words by Dominic Kwaczynski