Over six days, the St Kilda Film Festival screens more Australian short films than any other festival across Australia in the genres of drama, comedy, documentary, animation and digital media. As part of the festival, the top 100 Australian short films are screened across multiple sessions. With a penchant for filmic diversity, Cream’s Melbourne correspondent, Latoyah Forsyth braved the wickedly torrential yet all-too predictable downpour and ventured to the much-loved Astor Theatre in St Kilda to review Session 4. Her top three standout films were:
No Way To The Top
Devoted in sight and sound to an ’80s band tragically dubbed “the poor man’s Pseudo Echo”, No Way To The Top hilariously documents the trials and tribulations of Tibet – the forgotten ’80s pop band that never could. Inspired by the likes of David Bowie, Adam Ant, Billy Idol and Sid Vicious, Tibet’s discography is deliciously woeful with side-splitting music videos to match. Director/Producer Simon Wells has created a quality comedic monster that not only captures the sheer amusement of the failed band, but also the admirable determination of each and every member as they reminisce over their formation, inability to write catchy songs, downright ridiculous creative visions for their home-made music videos and a lone psychopathic groupie named Adriana.
Detailing the harsh reality of racial stereotypes amidst the throws of juvenile delinquency, Something Fishy is undoubtedly the standout short film of Session 4. Set in a small and rundown beachside town, the film follows the dramatic friendship between Nick, an Anglo-Saxon teenage trouble maker who fails to understand the meaning of consequences and Trev, Nick’s sheep-like best mate who is the target of racial mistreatments from xenophobic neighbours because of his Aboriginal descent. After a boating joyride goes awry, an alcohol-fuelled boyish brawl breaks out between the two and tragically ends when Trev lands head first into rocks, killing him instantly. Distraught at what has happened yet petrified of the consequences, Nick uses the tragic racial stereotype that associates Aborigines with alcoholism as a scapegoat by planting a bottle of booze lifted from Trev’s kitchen beside his deceased best mate to remove him from fault. At almost 13 minutes, Something Fishy could quite easily be reworked into a feature film. Brad Albert and Jhi Clarke are deserving of the utmost praise for their characterizations and delivery of a distressing story not many young actors would be able to convey so heartbreakingly well.
The Op Shop
Bless suburban Grandmas and their naivety. Set in an unassuming Mordialloc Opportunity Shop, The Op Shop tells the uproarious tale of three elderly shop assistants who discover the liberating transformative power of a multi-purpose gadget (aka a vibrator) that is mysteriously donated to the store. Uncertain of its exact function, each lady takes the contraption home to further investigate its purpose and returns to work the day after a completely new and reinvigorated woman (we wonder why?). Actors Joy Westmore, Janet Foye and Isabel Harkensee do a marvelous job in contrasting the understatedly naive investigative qualities of the elderly ladies against their somewhat adorable sexual reawakening. Directed by Lee Rogers, The Op Shop is most definitely an unassuming comedic highlight of the festival.
Films that were pipped at the post but deserving of kudos nonetheless include:
Situated in a non-descript post-apocalyptic/war torn landscape, three soldiers make their way to an assigned rendezvous point when they spy a photo booth placed precariously upon a hill. When the photo booth captures more than just a simple figure of each soldier in the photos, it becomes apparent that the photo booth predicts a somewhat tragic fate. Directed by Michael Noonan with Brigham Edgar as the Director of Photography on side, the cinematography is praiseworthy especially when interspersed with fish eye frames to represent the interior of the photo booth and the colour grading is especially commendable.
5 Dock Crew
Detailing older generation’s love for skating at the 5 Dock skate park in Sydney NSW, Simon Bare’s 5 Dock Crew aims to bridge the gap between young and old and high and low by interviewing a selection of older gentleman who by day fulfill typical business roles and by night skate until their aging heart is content. As a first time festival application the 15 minute film is uncharacteristically low in cinematic quality, making it hard for the viewer to stay attentive. Lack of technical proficiency aside, the charm of the film is heard rather than seen in the sheer love the older skaters have for their adrenalin-filled hobby, no matter how it affects their aging bones. This bogan-esque endearment fosters a loving sense of community that is not typically seen at any skate park, especially around Leichardt or Neutral Bay, that’s for sure.
Crosshairs is a short film deeply grounded in an unexpected loyalty exercise that takes place on a sheep farm in rural Western Australia. The plot is centered on the unbalanced relationship between troublesome brothers Jamie and Beau, whose plan to poach a lamb for their family dinner is dangerously foiled when the owner of the farm hunts them down and detains vulnerable Jamie whilst Beau selfishly escapes and hides out in the woods. Actor Luke Ledger ought to be high fived for his wholesome and emotive characterization of a helpless Jamie who realizes post haste that his brotherly relationship with Beau is one-sided and decides to prove that loyalty extends beyond family and into the wider realm of right and wrong by making amends for his actions with the farmer which is a welcome and unexpected plot development in the 12 minute film.
Images via stkildafilmfestival.com.au.