Cold Case Hammarskjold (2019) – MIFF Review

Mads Brugger worked with Swedish Private Investigator Goran Bjorkdale investigate the death of the 1961 Secretary-General of the United Nations, Dag Hammerskjold, who died in a plane accident in the Congo. But was it simply a plane crash, or was it a conspiracy involving a secret army?

It’s hard to know. It appears that there is a lot of compelling evidence pointing to a massive conspiracy, but is any of it authentic? The documentary is so funny, with Brugger dressing up to get into character of one of the key players, consulting secretaries, getting interviews with mysterious characters and doing strange investigations. I walked out feeling like it was all legit, but then talking about it, it couldn’t be. Could it? But really, could it, though?

Amazing Grace (2018) – MIFF Review

In 1972, Aretha Franklin recorded a live album over two nights in a church in LA. It was filmed however, due to technical difficulties, it was not released. Until now – after a series of setbacks, it has finally been cut and released. And it is wonderful. It’s fabulous to see the power and strength of Franklin singing live, and it’s fabulous to see the reactions of the choir and the audience as they witness this album being recorded. There still are some technical issues, including, it seems, perhaps a lack of good visual coverage at times, but it doesn’t detract from the wonderful film.

Valentine Road (2013) MIFF Film Review

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USA, 89 mins

Valentine Road is a documentary about the aftermath of a school shooting in Oxnard, California. A fourteen-year-old gay student, Larry King, was shot by his classmate at school and died two days later. Larry King was from a broken family, living in a shelter for children who have been abused, and had just started to experiment with revealing his sexuality through his behaviour and dress. The day before the shooting, Larry had approached his attacker, Brandon McIrneny in front of a group of his friends, to ask him to be his Valentine. This perceived humiliation was more than Brandon was able to handle and he responded by bringing a gun to school the next day and shooting Larry.

Apart from being too long, with far too many extended shots of people (mostly teenagers) crying, it was an extremely interesting and well constructed film. It seems pretty open-and-shut – a kid shoots another kid and should be locked up. Gradually, though, we are given information about Brandon’s life and the society that these two boys grew up in that makes you question what punishment is appropriate and necessary. Whatever you do, do not expect this film to be uplifting and light-hearted. It is deeply sad and disturbing, and I felt little hope for the world after seeing it.

Valentine Road is part of the Next Gen program of MIFF 2013. School bookings are available and there is a free study companion provided by ACMI. It would be a very hard film to teach, but for a mature group of students, there is the potential for deep discussion and learning.

Valentine Road screens at ACMI on Friday, August 2nd at 11am and at Greater Union on Sunday, August 4th at 1:30pm. For tickets, visit MIFF

MIFF 2013

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Have you picked up your copy of the MIFF 2013 program yet? It’s in today’s Age, so you still have a few hours to pop down the shop and grab it. MIFF kicks off on Thursday July 25 at the Arts Centre with a screening of I’m So Excited, a Spanish Comedy straight from the screens at Cannes.

International Panorama is back, as is the Australian Showcase, Next Gen and Accent on Asia. I’m very excited about Juche Days which is a selection of films from North Korea. There is a documentary on Pussy Riot that I am hoping to see, and can only hope it sheds more light on activism in Russia than Tomorrow from MIFF 2012. One program I will be avoiding (thanks to my wussy constitution) is the Italian Giallo section, with lots of graphic violence; that and Night Shift with all the horror and suspense that other people can handle. Tim Winton’s short story collection, The Turning has been made into a series of shorts that are screening together as a feature presentation that looks extremely impressive.

There is so much more. Get the program, grab a highlighter and get booking. Tickets went on sale today, which leads to one of my favourite games – watching the MIFF app to see what tickets are selling fast/sold out. At time of writing, one of the sessions of The Turning is already on standby. Very exciting.

MIFF runs from July 25 to August 11. For tickets, visit the MIFF website.