Melbourne International Film Festival 2010: The Preview, Part 2

Hey, you're back! Good on you! Soldiering through I see. Buried amongst my ranting there is some valuable information I'm sure. Welcome to the second part of my MIFF preview. Didn't expect it to get so long-winded but we have a lot to talk about. My main concern today will be looking at the documentary selections. Like yesterday I will move from films I am anticipating to films I have already seen. Let's get into it shall we...
A friend stumbled upon the trailer for this a couple of months ago and became obsessed. Understandably so. This is classic stuff! Two comedians (one a self-described 'spastic', literally) enter North Korea and proceed to rehearse for a show. As they gain unprecedented access to the country their minders start to offer suggestions as to what they should be putting in the show while the comedians intend to take the piss out of the dictatorial regime. The trailer (below) looks fascinating in a 'we're in way over our head' kinda way. Should be amusing to say the least!
I unreservedly love Mark Hartley's previous documentary, Not Quite Hollywood. It was an amazing work of entertainment that sparked an enormous resurgence of interest in some lost Australian films. This follow up looks at the Filipino exploitation film movement of the 70s and 80s. If it is half as entertaining as Not Quite Hollywood then I will be happy! If you get a chance I highly recommend you go see it at the special drive in that MIFF is setting up in Shed 4 at the Docklands. It will screen at that session as part of a double feature with a brilliant little gem called For Y'ur Height Only featuring the classic midget James Bond, Weng Weng. I mean seriously folks, both these films at an old school drive in?? How can you resist?
Crazy Japanese inventor that claims he will live to the age of 144 and has a gold plated toilet room where he does his thinking. Enough said. You will see this film. Trailer below for those with hesitations.
Stephen Soderbergh makes a documentary about Spalding Grey. I know that sentence will be enough to sell this one to some people. While I'm not the biggest Soderbergh fan, I am a big fan of Spalding Grey. He is one of the greatest speakers of the 20th century and this film has been constructed out of his own monologues. Knowing some of Grey's work I can honestly say that if all this film is is Grey talking to the camera then this will be a greatly entertaining experience.
I am really interested in seeing films about small cultural niches centred around seemingly disparate ideas and you cannot get more disparate than punk and Islam. While this film is probably completely different, it's concept reminds me of a documentary called Heavy Metal In Baghdad which looked at a small metal community in Iraq (highly recommended, track it down). Can you really resist the curiosity surrounding punk islam? I know I can't.
Other documentaries I am looking forward to are; Collapse, the story of conspiracy theorist Michael Ruppert. I have come across Ruppert's ideas before so I am really looking forward to watching him simply lay out his thoughts in this Errol Morris style format. Youtube "Ruppert" if you are curious, the results will be interesting. Blank City, the story of New York underground filmmaking in 70s and 80s looks exciting to me. This is the culture that gave us people like Jim Jarmusch, John Waters and Steve Buscemi so I am certainly paying attention. Villalobos is also on my must-see list. It betrays my electronic music roots but I'm always interested in how techno is represented on film and Villalobos makes for an interesting subject.
Oil City Confidential should be worthwhile as Julian Temple knows how to put together a cracking music doco (The Filth and The Fury and Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten) despite my indifference to its subject matter. Bill Cunningham, New York is another title I am scheduling in despite my relative disinterest in the subject. It won the audience award for favourite documentary at the Sydney Film Festival this year so I'm happy to see what all the fuss is about. The Basquiat documentary has also been recommended to me by a friend who saw it in Sydney. According to him, at the very least you will enjoy seeing some of Basquiat's art up on a huge screen (not to mention the amazing story of his life).
So... Onto films I have seen and can offer you some actual experiential advice on.
Waste Land is probably going to be the most controversial thing I have to say in this section simply because I really, really didn't like this film. Read my previous review here for more information but be wary as I seem to be in a small minority of one in disliking this. It rubbed me the wrong way and basically confirmed everything I don't like about rich first world artists entering third world countries for their art. See this film and argue with me. It won't be my first round of fisticuffs over this film.
Another one I didn't really like was Space Tourists. Maybe it was festival burn out but I found this one really unsubstantial. It has some interesting moments but overall it came across as slightly boring. I saw so many better documentaries up in Sydney that this one just fell well behind the benchmark so unless you have a really significant interest in the subject matter then I will say don't bother.
I really enjoyed The Oath. It's a brilliantly structured documentary exploring a very strange character who despite currently being a taxi driver in Yemen apparently used to be Osama Bin Ladin's personal bodyguard. Full of interesting insights into Islamic perceptions of the west, I would definitely recommend this film to anyone with even a passing interest in the subject matter.
Really briefly I want to mention a few of the special events that look exciting too. I very highly recommend the screening of Buster Keaton's The General with a live score by the Blue Grassy Knoll. Saw this presentation a few years ago at the Astor and it is still to this day on of the best cinematic experiences of my life. Joe Dante's The Movie Orgy is also a personal highlight. This late night screening of Dante's four and a half hour mash-up from the 60s is a rare treat. This never screens anywhere so those hardcore buffs up for an all-nighter will see a cult sensation! Who wants to join me for the Germaine Greer talk? Heh no takers?
I am barely scratching the surface with this preview but it's a pretty comprehensive summation of what this years MIFF will be for me. Let me know by email or in the comments below what you are looking forward to. I'm sure I may be missing some of your own personal highlights. Just be sure not to freak out when you see a bearded bespectacled man running around the city frantically come late July. It's just me trying to make my next film in time. Maybe throw a chocolate bar my way, I probably will be pretty malnourished by that point and in need of a sugar hit.