All of the films shown last Thursday were fantastic. It was a nerve-wracking moment each time a new film started, as I wondered whether I’d hear Jack’s voice announce our film. And I was a little unsure/nervous and scared about the quality of our film, simply feeling like I’d love another couple of days to work on it.
But it was fine, and I was thoroughly entertained throughout all of the films. Not one went past where I was looking at my watch or wondering what I was doing here. It was particularly interesting to see some really personal stories being made into documentaries. I was quite impressed by the courage and open-ness demonstrated by some students who stepped in front of the camera to become central narrators, subjects and basically the reason the film was made. And I think all of those kinds of films really worked well.
This film had a really great attitude. The opening was great as it used text (bolded words for emphasis etc) and delivery to drive home what it’s all going to be about. I was initially a bit unsure about using an academic, but he was quite engaging and was used more as a reference/context shaper than the actual subject. The comedian interview was great. I’d seen the ice experiment before in Stephen Fry:
Nevertheless, the way they filmed it looked great and it fit in with the aesthetic they were going for. I reckon it could’ve been edited together a bit more quickly and I can’t quite remember, but I recall thinking that they hadn’t fully explained that one was with swearing and one was without. All in all I really enjoyed it.
This was one of the personal ones listed above. I really enjoyed it: at first I was pretty worried it wouldn’t work out, but they had such a fantastic abundance of photos and stock footage of the…Ivory Coast was it? that it came together really, really well. The interviews setups looked really good in my opinion, the talent (wife and son and grandson) were all strong, and the narration was clear and simple without being overly sentimental. It was a really interesting life story told well.
Having been in this tute I’d seen it before. But the use of the four little dots to connect the four films into a whole was inspired and just perfect.
Scott’s blind film remained incredibly impressive. There was such great control over every sonic and visual element: if other documentaries are a series of photos of events happening, this feels much more like a deliberate, constructed piece of art. The shot of the child at the beach was so beautifully framed, it sticks in my mind along with the clean sound of waves and the ocean that accompanies it. It was great, but I remember feeling the ending was a little abrupt. Very much enjoyed the eyeball shot, reminding me of Un chien andalou as I guess it’s somewhat meant to (or at least it can’t help but remind you of it).
The typography film was also largely as I’d seen it. I still really enjoy it. I think it’s the great pace that doesn’t let you rest or get bored. It’s always moving onwards, onwards, onwards. And the clever use of types and font sizing, as well as the section on the anatomy of type keeps throughout little visual gags at you. I really enjoyed it. It just has a playful kind of vibe.
The next one on synesthesia was really enjoyable. The stop motion looked great, and I think the most memorable moment from that is the shot where the rose flower is removed from the stem and becomes a brain, which is then cut in half, and out of the halves jump strands of colour. It’s such a great way to visually represent synesthesia. The use of a poem to tie it all together worked really well, although I did feel that some of the lines had incredibly powerful visuals that were really evocative (the rain one) and others not quite as powerful. But the use of audio with the visuals was usually great, I remember the gold shimmery one, and the night catching on fire was great, with the crackling fireplace feel. I think that was my favourite bit.
I found the next one uncomfortable to watch at times, largely due to bleeding freshly done tattoos. But I still enjoyed it, it had a very controlled kind of aesthetic and mood. I loved the way the shots went in and out of colour and to varying degrees of saturation, often in time with the music (e.g. a beat after). Really effective. It felt like a film clip for the music, which was probably because the music was the only audio I think we heard. I enjoyed the point made about makeup and tattoos: in the first version we saw that wasn’t so clear and I thought she was one of the tattooists.
Another personal story, Lily did a great job tying this one together. The interviewees were all interesting, and even though the guy in the bar’s visuals weren’t the best and the audio was a little noisy, he was clear and it was a case of playing footage that wasn’t technically amazing but told an important part of the story. Sound was really well done in this one, and visuals. I loved the way they didn’t move much from the location, but had just stacks and stacks of beautiful shots of it to put together. It really made clear that what happened at this location was the subject of the film, above and beyond any one individual.
It was great.
Beneath the Lyrics
This was a really impressive film to me. I loved the doctor talent who was sceptical at first then convinced. The framing of him with nearly his whole body in shot was interesting and for some reason it kind of worked for me. Perhaps because it made it less personal than the story of the man who had cancer, and acted almost as a kind of ‘comic relief’ in the circumstances.
There was also this great moment where the subject was on the phone and said “yep, I’m at work bye” or words to that effect. It was put in at a place where that made clear his new lease on life and the way he was beholden to nobody else. I was reminded of a moment in Cunningham’s interview with Wexler where he explains that on the set of Salesman, the crew called the wife of one of the bible sellers and suggested they were having a good time. They could then film the bible seller on the phone to his wife explaining what he was actually doing. It may have been confected, I don’t know, but it worked really well and helped them tell that story.
The audio of them singing was beautiful, the subject and story was engaging, and it was shot really well. I found it moving and I really, really enjoyed it. Ace job.
Cubbies and Anywhere But Here
I just wanted to quickly comment (as I won’t have time to review every film and my memory isn’t quite the steel trap it should be) on these two films use of child talent. It was gold, and worked really well. Where in a fictional film working with children last Semester was time consuming and possibly not worth it for my group, these both showed how great children can be, especially in a documentary that deals with bleak and difficult subject matter. The voice of a child simply articulating their problem will always be move convincing and gripping than any expert or adult. It bypasses logic and grabs straight at your heart.
It reminds me of ABC journalist Sarah Ferguson’s 4 Corners report into children living in Claymore, a public housing estate in NSW. In the report, she speaks largely to the children in the area, about their hopes and ambitions and circumstances. It tells the story really simply and she lets them articulate the emotional reality, while she fills in with the money and politics behind it. It’s really inspired me to work harder when covering these kinds of stories to find a child’s voice, and be careful not to frame them in a glib, laugh-at-them kind of way, but give them the same treatment and voice that an adult would get.
This one was really great. I worked with Jenny last Semester on our fiction film and she was so energised, no idea was too ambitious or complex. So it was fantastic to see her work this Semester. They got some help with the sound and it was so effective in that opening sequence, it was really started to creep me out. The lighting for those artificially dramatised sequences was fantastic. The talent they found in Initially No and her partner were great, clear communicators and I really enjoyed the way they illustrated the point about representation, both with the very opening, the dramatised sections and more. It was really powerful, every shot was beautiful framed (including the 3 person conversation, I loved that), and impressive.
All in all, the films were all fantastic. I feel so lucky to have been a part of this course, it’s been great and I will miss this Media student community, but have drawn so much tangible experience and critical appreciation from it that I know it’ll continue to be a useful part of my professional working life for years to come.