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Top 5 offbeat films at Sydney Film Festival this weekend

Friday 14 June 2013

Top 5 offbeat films at Sydney Film Festival this weekend

For the past eight days, the Sydney Film Festival has been delighting audiences with an incredible range of films from Australia and around the world. The films, and the directors, tell an array of fascinating narratives through documentary, drama, comedy and thriller. From the sentimental to the unconventional; stories of porn star environmentalists, outback-Australian crime, the controversy of captivity and brothers that couldn’t be more different.

Unusual but gripping films such as The Act of Killing challenged audiences by blurring fact with fiction as the film documents members of death squads reenacting their memories of genocide. Often it is these eccentric, strange and unexpected stories that have the most impact in cinema. Below is a selection of reviews on the lesser known and curious films of the festival that you can still catch over the closing weekend. 

Death Metal Angola
The contrast of opening scenes in this film can’t help but encourage intrigue. A musician rehearsing death metal, images of men hunting landmines and crumbling buildings that have an eerie beauty to them - without dialogue or reference, it lets you slip straight in. Centered around the Okutiuka orphanage in Huambo, the film follows Sonia Ferreira and Wilker Flores as they attempt a seemingly impossible task: to host the first death metal music festival in Angola. The director Jeremy Xido, paints a moving portrait of war-torn Angola through the accounts of the orphaned children, and the couple who run the orphanage; Sonia and Wilker.

The roots of death metal lie in Scandinavia where themes of fictional stylised violence, horror, mutilation, torture and extreme viciousness are projected through the music. Whilst hearing the graphic and disturbing accounts, it becomes clear that death metal (despite its European roots) belongs to Angola as one of the most effective forms of artistic and emotional expression. In between the growls and thrashing drums, Xido beautifully and delicately shows how death metal plays an important role in healing the trauma of the war, whilst building a supporting community of respect and affection.

See it Sunday 16th June at 2:45pm – Event Cinemas George Street

Eat Sleep Die
For anyone stung by the global financial crisis in recent years, this may not be a film for you. Eat, Sleep, Die follows the story of Rasa, a young woman made redundant, struggling to find a job in her hometown to avoid moving away from her sick father. Many obstacles blight her; not having a drivers license, no experience beyond packing salads and a last name that’s not Swedish. This is an accurate portrait of contemporary Europe: desperate and somber. Amidst the depression, director Gabriela Pichier has created original and fresh relationships between the characters, namely Rasa and her father, who is very much a sweet, caring and worried parent. Another aspect that makes this film stand out is the use of amateurs, a testament to Pichier’s ability as a director.

The film is slow paced and feels long, however, the themes of unemployment with younger adults, ‘benefits culture’ and how the global financial crisis affects everyone is identifiable and relatable. An interesting and clever part is the progression of confidence coaching to the newly unemployed (including Rasa), and the reversal effects it has with participants.

See it Friday 14th June at 11:50am – Event Cinemas George Street

It’s About to Rain
In a society that is ever increasing in diversity and multiculturalism, It’s About to Rain is a poignant and moving film about identifying with culture, country, society and having a sense of belonging. The film follows Said, Italian born of Algerian parents. On the cusp of renewing their visas, Said’s father Mahran loses his factory job and the family (including Said’s brother Amir) are denied their Visa renewals and informed they must leave the country.

Written, directed and produced by Iraqi-Italian filmmaker Haider Rashid, the film has an honestly and integrity in portraying the experiences of second-generation migrants, and the cultural conflicts they face. Rashid lets the audience into this intimate family conflict and the bureaucratic mess that is ‘immigration’, with the use of close-ups and events that further embed and detach Said and his family from Italian life. With a great script, performances, and growing praise, It’s About to Rain is a significant film for modern, international audiences, which may strike a chord with many Australians.

See it Saturday 15th June at 6pm – Dendy Opera Quays Cinema 2

The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology
This is a film for those that like flexing their intellectual muscles, as director Sophie Fiennes teams up again with philosopher Slavoj Zizek with the follow up to Pervert’s Guide to Cinema. Zizek finds himself on the sets of many much-loved films as he delivers his thoughts about the ideology behind films and media. From Taxi Driver, Jaws, A Clockwork Orange and The Dark Knight, Zizek is literally embedded in the film as he provides intellectual, legitimate observations and unwraps and exposes our cinematic based beliefs.

Both Zizek and Fiennes have a passion for great cinema and this film is innovative and stimulating filmmaking with a humorous touch. But to fully appreciate the insights and amusing annotations, you really need to be a fan of this style of documentary and be in the right frame of mind. The rambling can be an overload and the pace may leave your brain spinning.

See it Sunday 16th June at 2:30pm – Event Cinemas George Street 

The Search for Emak Bakia
The opening shot for this film, where the sky becomes the sea and the sea becomes the sky, sets the tone of this film; a tribute and part recreation of May Ray’s 1926 avant-garde poetic film Emak Bakia. The title, translated as ‘Leave me alone!’ and what it meant for Ray, is the driving force behind director Oskar Alegria in this experimental documentary.

Visiting cemeteries, interviewing Romanian princess’, filming sleeping beauties, pigs having nightmares and a flirtatious plastic glove, as well as asking the question ‘can clowns die?’, are just some of the side stories and characters Alegria allows himself to get distracted by and explore in true surrealist style. Recreating some of Ray’s shots, Alegria taps into the quirky humour and abstract, whimsical representation of the world in Emak Bakia. Whilst it takes a few minutes to get into the film, and audiences may not be a fan of Ray and avant-garde cinema, Alegria takes you on a philosophical, creative expedition, letting chance be the guide. This is a film very much about the journey, not the destination. 

See it Saturday 15th June 10:30am – Event Cinemas George Street

- Chelsea Denny

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