Rodney Bingenheimer is known as the Mayor of Sunset strip. He’s a radio presenter (what appears to be both quite unsuccessful and also extremely influential, which is a mystery). He’s lived most of his life in Hollywood following celebrities. He comes across as a weirdo, but a weirdo that has spent much of his life sleeping with beautiful women and making careers. Somehow – after watching the documentary, it seems like a lot of people feel that he has a lot of power over their careers, but I can’t see how this happens. There is a lot of found footage as well as interviews with a wide range of famous people including David Bowie, Courtney Love, Gwen Stefani, Alice Cooper, the list goes on.
When I started watching it I thought “Wow, what an odd guy, but he’s found his place in the world. Shame he seems so lonely.” But as it went on, he seemed creepier, and there was an interview with one of his close friends who is clearly a sexual predator creep and it just turned yuk. Overall, it left a bad taste in my mouth.
Raf Simons is a designer recently moved to Christian Dior and preparing for his first haute couture show. The process is long and stressful and involves all kinds of hard work from some people and wandering around looking at things for others.
If you like fashion, this is probably a must see documentary. If you don’t like fashion, you may well be like me and quite enjoy this. What did I like? I found it fascinating to see what goes in to one of these shows – even if I don’t care about the show or the fashion or the scarily thin and creepy looking models or the massive amounts of money that go into this kind of stuff. I quite liked the people involved, although the artistic temperament of Raf made me most grateful I wasn’t working under him… And yet, at the culmination of all the work, the ridiculous show, I was totally with him.
The Scripps National Spelling Bee is a massive thing in the US. It has coverage on sports channel ESPN and the top competitors are recognized for years to come. Perhaps a little too much pressure for these secondary school students? The film follows eight students in the 1999 competition from different cultural, economic and social backgrounds through their training regime and the various heats that lead to the final in Washington.
I’m torn by this film. It’s definitely a very interesting documentary about a cultural phenomenon that does not exist here in Australia. But while I believe that the filmmakers have attempted to show the competitors in a good light, it was really hard not be judging and somewhat laughing at them. And that’s a bit rough, I think because they are kids. Passion and obsession can often be fascinating, and I guess there is an aspect of going along with it because it is quite relatable. Ultimately, I think I had more empathy for the subjects and their hopes and dreams, and I did enjoy the film; I guess I hope that they all recovered from their journey and hope none were too traumatised by the representations of themselves they saw on-screen.
In the 1970s, a mysterious musician known as Rodriguez was a sensation in a South Africa plagued by Apartheid. His albums were damaged by the authorities to ensure the subversive lyrics were not heard by the masses. Yet in the rest of the world, Rodrigeuz was unknown. Until recently, when two South Africans set out to find out what really happened to their idol.
I love a documentary with a few really decent twists, and this certainly has that. I’m not going to say much more, other than to recommend it most highly. It’s a fabulous tale definitely worth being told.
Searching for Sugarman won an Oscar for Best Documentary, Features and a BAFTA for Best Documentary Film.
Julien Temple has compiled a whole series of images from over a century of film footage to create this fast-paced, exciting representation of London. But it is not just the quality or the amount of footage that makes this an amazing film; it’s the way he juxtaposes the images. Images of riots from the early twentieth century compared to the recent riots in 2011 or black-and-white footage of children playing the alleyways next to modern kids. It leave a feeling that London is as it ever was – lively and aggressive.
The footage is broken up with interviews from a wide range of Londoners, from Suggs to Ray Davies to Michael Horowitz. The only issue I had with it was the use of a mysterious ‘control room’ scene, like a security office with a whole series of CCTV feeds, that was used to connect scenes. It was odd and just didn’t work for me. Still, the rest of the film was so utterly compelling and hypnotic that I overlooked those scenes.
London: The Modern Babylon is playing at ACMI through until September 10. For bookings, visit ACMI.
Australia/Burma 75 mins
This documentary follows an Australian in Burma gets involved with a company who is creating a girl band with the aim to make money. However, Miss Nikki (as she is known to the girls) sees more for this group. She sees the chance to change the role of women in Burma. The girls, five average girls from around the country, face a range of challenges, but their spirit and passion push them forward.
I don’t watch any of those dance or singing TV shows. I’m not into girl bands and pop music. I don’t know much about Burma except a passing knowledge of Aung San Suu Kyi. And despite all of this, I could not get enough of this film. Miss Nikki has her heart on her sleeve, the contradictory emotions about her position in the country and whether she is helping or hindering the girls she is working with openly discussed. But what I really loved about the film was the girls. Against the odds of the politics and the cultural norms, they want to change the world. I hope we see a lot more of them.
Miss Nikki and the Tiger Girls screens at Greater Union on Monday, August 5 at 6:30pm and at ACMI on Wednesday, August 7 at 9pm. To book tickets, visit http://miff.com.au/
Australia 90 mins
Jeremy Oxley was the frontman of The Sunnyboys, an awesome pub rock band of the early 80s that had some success in the Australian charts and then disappeared. What many didn’t know was that Oxley was living with schizophrenia and gradually became more focused on his artwork.
The documentary covers Oxley’s life from early childhood through falling in love with his beautiful and supportive wife Mary and his relationship with her two young sons and ends with a reunion of the band.
The Sunnyboy screens at the Forum Theatre on Friday, August 9 at 6:30pm and at ACMI on Sunday, August 11 at 4pm. To book tickets, visit http://miff.com.au/
USA 91 mins
Remember video tapes? VHS and BETA? No? You’ve missed out on a lot. I was one of these kids who didn’t ever realise that what I had growing up was that great. We were the first generation to grow up able to tape whatever we wanted on television; to be able to go to a video store and hire from a wide selection of film; to be able to own a copy of something that we’d loved on the big screen.
Of course, like most technology, there are video geeks. There are people who have rooms and even houses dedicated to collecting rare movies; some of them don’t even watch the films they collect. Personally, I think this documentary is worth watching, even just for the discussion on the loss of the art of the hand-painted video cover.
Rewind This! screens at Greater Union on Tuesday, August 6 at 9pm and Friday, August 9 at 11:30pm. To book tickets, visit http://miff.com.au/
Australia 86 mins
Surely, everyone in Melbourne has heard of On The Beach – if only because the film of the book was made here back in the day. If you don’t know about it, On The Beach was a book written by Nevil Chute in 1957 about the dire consequences of a nuclear war. It was made into a film in 1959 starring Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire and Anthony Perkins.
Fallout is a documentary that takes a look into the life of Nevil Chute and the influences that inspired On The Beach and other of his works. It also looks at the way the film was adapted and what it meant to have such a film made in Melbourne in the 1950s. It is totally fascinating, inspiring me to both read the book and watch the film. Luckily, On The Beach is also a part of the festival.
Fallout screens at ACMI on Saturday, July 27 at 6:30pm and at Greater Union on Monday, July 29 at 6:30pm.
On The Beach screens at ACMI on Sunday, July 28 at 6:15pm. To book tickets, visit http://miff.com.au/
Tabloid starts with interviews with some of the key players in a very strange series of events and as the film continues, it becomes one of those documentaries where you end up laughing at the subject because she is different. A little odd, with unusual attitudes, and who knows, maybe even some kind of undiagnosed mental illness.
The original story is quite hilarious; an all-American beauty queen, Joyce McKinney, is dating a Mormon whose mother disapproves of her. Suddenly, he is gone and when her private investigator tracks him down, he is on a mission in London. She goes over there, and this is where things get confusing. McKinney’s story, and she is interviewed throughout the film, is that he left with her of his own accord, they went away for a weekend where they enjoyed their love and had lots and lots of sex, but when they returned to London, his Mormon guilt took over and he claimed he had been kidnapped and raped. The alternate story told (although not by the ‘manacled Mormon’ who declined to be interviewed for the documentary) is that she indeed did kidnap him, chained him to the bed and forced him to have sex with her. At any rate, he ended up back at the mission and she was charged by the English police. Later, whilst her cause was being championed by one tabloid paper, another was pulling her character and history apart. Much more happens in her life, but it is this that is the key defining time in her life.
There is no doubt this is a funny documentary. I went to a sold out session and the whole place was roaring with laughter. There was so much laughter that many of the key lines were not even heard. The subjects of the interviews seemed happy to show both themselves and McKinney in a bad light. But, toward the end, I felt an emptiness. It may have been that I felt McKinney had repeatedly over her life been taken advantage of, although she did have a cheerful demeanor throughout her interviews and doesn’t seem to regret anything. Or perhaps it is that I just don’t really enjoy laughing at people as much as I used to.