Shut Up, Little Man (2011) MIFF Film Review


A couple of young guys, Eddie and Mitch, move to a small, run-down apartment in San Francisco after they finish college. They are kept awake at night by the two old drunks next door, a gay man and a homophobic man, who shout obscenities at each other until all hours. At first, fearing their safety, they begin to record these interactions, but eventually it becomes amusing to them. They start giving copies of the tape to friends and over time, it becomes a cult classic. The ‘Shut Up, Little Man’ recordings, which spawned many cartoons, songs and other artwork.

This documentary sees South Australian film maker Matthew Bate travel to San Francisco and take the young men, now adults with families of their own, back to the apartment to retell the events that transpired from these recordings.

Debates that the film raised is whether or not these old drunken men were taken advantage of, and who has the rights to the material that was recorded – those who spoke the words, those who recorded them, or is it open to all?

The film was too long, and seemed to spend a lot of time looking at areas that could have been covered far more concisely. An example of this was the debate over who was going to make the film of these two old men that really didn’t hold my attention. Plus, there were a lot of repetitive images that I found annoying – a microphone outside a window, or the same photos of the young men at the time of the recordings.

My friend put her finger on why the film was not as compelling as we had anticipated – it was very hard to see why these tapes were so funny. The audience was given short snippets that had some funny lines, but ultimately provoked a sense of sympathy for the old men. If the humour had been more obvious from the start, perhaps I would have enjoyed the film more. However, maybe it is better to listen to the tapes before watching the documentary. Eddie is still selling them on his website – just Google ‘Shut up, little man.’

The Redemption of General Butt Naked (2011) MIFF Film Review


Could you forgive a man who raped you, or chopped off your legs, or blinded your baby in one eye? Could you forgive a man who recruited and used child soldiers in his battle, and many years later, can calmly recall the structure of training to make them unafraid to kill?

It is a difficult concept – that fifteen years after leading a group of rebels fighting in Liberia to overthrow the government, he returns, a Christian minister, to redeem himself. This is not just any rebel, either, this man who was known as General Butt Naked. This was because he and his followers would fight naked, believing that naked, they were impervious to bullets. When people throughout Liberia saw naked men running toward them, they knew to be afraid, for these soldiers were the most vicious.

The documentary not only covers the past, but also follows the General as he visits his former victims to apologise and obtain forgiveness. This is difficult to watch for many different reasons, not just because of the emotion it brings up. He is a very charismatic man, and also quite a bully, and it sometimes feels that the people were almost forced to say them forgive him, perhaps against their will. They were not threatened, but kind of hounded.

I found this documentary to be absolutely fascinating and it raises a lot of questions about how would you react in this situation. Could you forgive him?

Pool Party (2010) MIFF Film Review


If you like live music, watch this. If you like bands like the Breeders, the Beastie Boys, the Black Lips, the Hold Steady, MIA, Sonic youth and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, watch this. If you’re interested in a bit of New York history, watch this.

The McCarren pool was built in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in 1936 and was large enough to accommodate nearly seven thousand swimmers. Over the years, the social and cultural landscape of Williamsburg changed until eventually the pool was closed in 1983. In 2005, it was redeveloped, initially for a site-specific dance performance but was then used for the highly successful ‘Pool Parties’ providing free daytime concerts with many of the best bands of New York and beyond.

The documentary gives a glimpse of the cultural transition of Williamsburg from Eastern Europeans, through Hispanic and African-American residents and now passing through the hipsters to full gentrification. This is potentially a politically and racially charged topic, but the weight of this topic is balanced by the lightness of the music documentary.

I came away from this film fascinated with the history of the area and jealous of those who were there for the concerts. The Pool Parties have left the McCarren pool and it is in the process of being refurbished back to its original use. In 2012, it will reopen as a pool two-thirds of the size of the original pool (and no doubt with less of the synchronized swimming) and with an ice skating rink. I wish I’d known about it. I wish I’d gone. At least this documentary gave me a glimpse of the experience.


The Matchmaking Mayor (2011) MIFF Film Review


The town of Zemplinski Hamre in eastern Slovakia is dying. It is dying because not enough of the men and woman are getting married and having families. This is worrying the town mayor, who has already has success in many other areas and so decides to create a social event for all the singles to meet and fall in love (or something similar).

At times, this film is quite uncomfortable to watch. The filmmaker probes several of the bachelors and bachelorettes about why they are single and many of them are embarrassed to talk about this. In some cases, it is the social awkwardness that we see when being interviewed that may be the cause of their single status.

My favourite moment of the film is when the Mayor is caught on film in a candid conversation with one of the townsmen and his true attitude towards the women of the town is revealed. If this is the way most of the townsmen think, I’m surprised any of them are married!
Overall, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this film and I think this is because, unlike so many current documentaries, I am not laughing at the subjects, but feel a genuine empathy for them, and I truly wish them well in the future – single or otherwise.

Magic Trip: Ken Kesey’s’s Search for a Kool Place (2012) MIFF Film Review


What happens when you put a bunch of acidheads into an old school bus and let them drive from California to New York and back again? Well, if it’s Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters and you give them a camera or two, you end up with hours and hours of footage that, after forty years, has still not been edited together. Alex Gibney, director of documentaries such as Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer took the footage and found a way to put together an amusing and compelling film.

My favourite part of the film was from the early days of Ken Kesey’s drug taking life. As a college student, Kesey was an elite athlete training for the Olympics as a wrestler, when he participated in a government drug trial where he was given LSD. Played in the film are audio recordings from this trial, and it was amazing to think that people were used by the US government in this manner. But, having said that was my favourite part, there were so many favourite parts. From seeing rare footage of some of the most famous of the beat poetry movement including Kerouac, Ginsberg and Cassidy to seeing a bus full of people high on LSD and speed being let continue on their way because the police were unaware of these drugs and their effects.

The handheld footage can be annoying at times, but if you can ignore this, it is a cool little snapshot into a very famous event of the sixties.

Life in a Day (2011) MIFF Film Review


This is a movie that is filmed by you and only you. Life in a Day, is a compilation of video clips that comprise from one day (July 24th 2010). Filmed and uploaded to YouTube, the best of best was handpicked by Ridley Scott and Kevin McDonald and weaved into a full length feature. There were over 80,000 submissions from 140 different countries and it was good to see different cultures and climates.

It starts chronologically with the passing of the 23rd to the 24th over midnight and showing footage of a drunk and people getting up early to pray. Then morphs into a movie experience you rarely get to see. The editing and transitions breathed life into the new segments. The visuals, stories and musical score were amazing. The film features clips of such things as a teenager’s first shave, a marriage proposal and a Korean man who’s travelled the world for 9 years with only his bike. You couldn’t help but smile at some of the stories. Then the heartbreak stories; the untold behind the scenes of an abattoir (animal cruelty involved) and a mother who’s going through cancer. It is a wonderful mix of happy and sad clips.

The movie is an absolute joy to watch from start to finish. Smiles, laughs, anger and tears all are mixed together in 95 minutes of all-out pleasantness. If this comes out on dvd, bluray or television, WATCH IT! You won’t regret it. It’s an amazing visual experience with stories of hope, love, anguish, fear and life itself. Simply put, it’s your life in another person’s world in one day.

Life in Movement (2011) MIFF Film Review



I love contemporary dance. I’m not talking those few minutes you see on So You Think You Can Dance; I’m talking full, live shows. When I say I love it, I’m really only get to a live contemporary dance piece maybe once a year. Maybe even only once in two years. What I love is the way dancers use their body to tell a story, or to convey emotion. It can make you laugh and it can make you cry.

Life in Movement documents the life of Tanja Liedtke who, at 29, was about to take over as the artistic director of the Sydney Dance Company when she was struck and killed by a bus. One thing which is wonderful about this documentary is that there is so much footage of this woman; footage of her working, footage of her life. She was clearly an amazing woman – hard to work for, a perfectionist who expected the most from herself and those around her, but clearly very inspirational.

After her death, the people she was working with, including her partner, decided they wanted the world to see Tanja’s work, and so they toured her shows Twelfth Floor and Construct. The documentary showed the difficulties involved in keeping Tanja’s work alive, but also documented her work both as a dancer and as a choreographer. It’s wonderful that there is this record of her life.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011) MIFF Film Review


Jiro Ono is in his mid-eighties and is the oldest chef to receive the highest restaurant award, three Michelin stars. What’s more, his restaurant only seats ten and for some patrons, the experience may only last fifteen minutes. But three Michelin stars are certainly not to be sniffed at, and it is clear that Jiro is a master at his art.

This documentary looks at two sides to Jiro. The first is with his mastery of Sushi. He has kept the same routine for over seventy-five years and expects nothing less than perfection from himself and his employees. Much of the preparation is now undertaken by his oldest son, who visits the markets and selects the fish. The shots of the preparation and presentation of the food are gorgeous and it is easy for the viewer to appreciate the craft that goes into preparing these amazing dishes.

The second side of Jiro is his family. Jiro grew up poor, separated from his parents at a young age. He has two sons; the oldest continues to work with his father and the younger has started his own sushi restaurant. The film appeared to be searching for controversy that didn’t really seem to be there. Yes, the older son of dreamt of being a fighter pilot and a F1 racer, but does that mean that he is not happy following his father’s footsteps? Was the absence of any mention of his wife significant?

The film didn’t need to strive for controversy or conflict. It exists as a delightful documentary on a style of food that is beautiful and a group of men who have made, or are making, careers out of this artistry. It is even worth struggling through poorly chosen subtitle colouring and size.

The Hungry Tide (2011) MIFF Film Review


At what point do you give up and just leave? Kiribati is a small country, a small group of low-lying islands which are threatened by the rising tides as a result of climate change.

Fed up with all the current debate on an Emissions Trading Scheme and having a strong sense of climate change fatigue prevalent, I was not looking forward to watching this documentary. I knew that whatever came from it, it would not be positive. I was right – it was not positive. Even over the time of filming, Kiribati was continuing to have its sea walls destroyed by the waves and the final scenes of a town during the annual king tide saw the water invading further into people’s homes than previously.

The hero of this film is Maria Tiimon, a Kiribati woman who lives in Australia and is active in pursuing action from the world community to change policies and attitudes to save her country and other countries in the same position. But, having little effect in Copenhagen at the Climate Change Conference and dealing with family illness and separation from her country, even this strong and positive woman finds it difficult to stay positive.

The film leaves the audience with little hope that these islands will be saved, and we are left to wonder what will happen not only to the people of these countries, but to their culture and history.

Give Up Tomorrow (2011) MIFF Film Review


Sometimes, it is amazing just how unjust the world can be. How can it be possible to convict a man of kidnapping, rape and murder when he has over forty witnesses that he was on the other side of the country?

Corruption and power seem to be the key elements here. From the suggestion that the father of the two missing girls was involved in some nasty business to the various family connections to people in positions of high power, this documentary seems to be suggesting that the lack of evidence was unimportant to the conviction of seven innocent men.

It is a story that should make you outraged. There are clearly so many reasons that the case should not have reached this point, yet it has. At the end it is stated that the film was made by a relative of Paco Larranaga and is setting out to prove Paco’s innocence. Does this clear bias take away at all from the evidence presented? I don’t think so, although if you take the documentary on face value, then you cannot help but to lose a little hope in human nature.

I do think the film is too long and parts are quite repetitive but the essential story is there – an innocent man facing huge injustice.