Friday, November 1, 2013

Canberra International Film Festival: Giant of the sea reduced to circus clown

Wouldn't you be screwed up? A scene from Gabriela Cowperthwaite's <i>Blackfish</i>.

Wouldn't you be screwed up? A scene from Gabriela Cowperthwaite's Blackfish. Photo: Supplied


4.30pm, Dendy

(83 minutes, US)

Georgia writer/co-director  Niana Ektmishbili's <i>In Bloom</i>.

Writer/co-director Nana Ektmishbili's In Bloom.

Do you reckon living your entire whale life in a bathtub surrounded by people might screw you up mentally? Especially when it's hard-wired into your DNA to roam the oceans with your family chasing fish and avoiding humans.


Gabriela Cowperthwaite's feature-length documentary looks behind the horror headlines of 2010, when a five-tonne orca named Tilikum killed one of his trainers in front of tourists at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida.

Killer whales have never been known to attack a human in the wild, and yet Tilikum - captured in Iceland in 1983 - has been responsible for three deaths, one as far back as 1991.

The eternally irreverent Father Bob features in the documentary, <i>In Bob We Trust</i>.

The eternally irreverent Father Bob features in the documentary, In Bob We Trust.

How strongly you respond to Blackfish might be determined to some extent by how you feel seeing one of the ocean's top predators performing like a circus animal.

But even if you think a majestic orca leaping out of a pool to touch a ball with its nose is delightful, it's difficult to deny the compelling case for freeing all the Willies presented in this disturbing film.

The controversy over Blackfish's allegations has reportedly prompted Disney to rewrite the ending of its Finding Nemo sequel, Finding Dory, so that the fish and mammals taken to a SeaWorld-style marine theme park have the freedom to leave.

A scene from <i>Ringbalin</i>, Ben Pederick's story about about an epic Aboriginal rain dance staged to end the 2010 drought.

A scene from Ringbalin, Ben Pederick's story about about an epic Aboriginal rain dance staged to end the 2010 drought.

If only Tilikum and his fellow orcas had that option.

■ Also screens 2.30pm Sunday, November 10, at Dendy.

Ilo Ilo
4pm, Arc

(99 minutes, Singapore)

The arrival of a maid from the Philippines has an unexpected impact on a working couple grappling with their misbehaving son and growing financial pressures.

A slow, sedate drama set in Singapore, writer-director Anthony Chen's semi-autobiographical film explores notions of social and family obligations against the backdrop of economic crisis in Asia.

In Bob We Trust
2.15pm, Dendy

(102 minutes, Australia)

This screening of Lynne-Maree Milburn's documentary portrait of everybody's favourite brazenly Bolshie Catholic priest, Father Bob Maguire, will be followed by an audience discussion with fellow men of the cloth Pat Power and Paul Collins.

Our Nixon
6pm, Arc

(85 minutes, US)

The Australian premiere of Penny Lane's portrait of the Nixon administration drawn from super-8 video footage and secret audio recordings is presented by the US Embassy, which will introduce and discuss the film.

■ Also screens from 2.30pm on Saturday, November 9, at Dendy.

The Gilded Cage
6.15pm, Dendy

(91 minutes, France/Portugal)

This cross-cultural comedy set in Paris focuses on a Portuguese immigrant couple who have enjoyed a fulfilling 30 years living in France but find themselves torn when an inheritance puts their dream of returning ''home'' to Portugal finally within reach.

■ Also screens 6.30pm Friday, November 8, at Dendy.

A World Not Ours
8pm, Arc

(93 minutes, Lebanon/UK)

Palestinian-born Mahdi Fleifel chronicles the lives of his family, friends and neighbours in the Ain-el-Helweh refugee camp in Lebanon.

The screening will be followed by a panel discussion on refugees with ACT Human Rights Commissioner Helen Watchirs and Civil Liberties Australia vice-president Tim Vines.

■ Also screens 4.30pm Saturday, November 9, at Dendy.

8.30pm, Dendy

(97 minutes, UK)

Australian premiere of the latest adaptation of a novel by Irvine Welsh (of Trainspotting acclaim). James McAvoy plays a hard-living Scottish cop assigned to solve a murder.

■ Also screens 8.45pm Wednesday, November 6, at Dendy.


Stranger By The Lake
8.30pm, Dendy

(97 minutes, France)

Alain Guiraudie's elegant erotic thriller takes place over a few summer days in the south of France, in the vicinity of a lake surrounded by woods, where gay men such as the boyishly handsome Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps) come to swim, sunbathe and enjoy casual sex in seclusion.

Sealing off the action from the outside world, and eliminating distractions such as background music, Guiraudie is able to combine lyricism, candour and an almost mathematical sense of form. Even the scenes that verge on pornography remain part of a strict visual plan, charting the protocols of a miniature society founded on male desire: glances exchanged at a distance, invitations accepted or brushed off, bodies that come together then go their separate ways.

Some rules of engagement are taken for granted, while others are open to negotiation. Ultimately, the film trades on the ambiguity of every exchange, the mystery of where any two people stand in relation to each other.

It's no great shock that the spectre of death lurks in this carnal Eden, where the calm of conversation means as much or as little as sexual frenzy, and where you can know someone intimately without knowing them at all.

For Franck, these paradoxes generate a pleasurable vertigo; at the centre of everything lies the lake itself, a symbol of tranquillity and danger, with its glinting surfaces and mysterious depths.

- Jake Wilson

Also screens 8.45pm Thursday, November 7, at Dendy.

6.30pm, Dendy

(110 minutes, Chile/Spain)

Women may dwindle in the eyes of the world as they age, but divorced office worker Gloria (Paulina Garcia) is not prepared to fade away just yet.

At the end of each week she trawls the singles scene between family obligations, meeting and bedding the seemingly amiable Rodrigo (Sergio Hernandez) in the process.

Chilean director Sebastian Lelio observes the pinch of loneliness without mawkishness and with flashes of humour, while Garcia's generous performance is a joy to behold. The film is never merely a one-woman showcase, however; Lelio's sense of place and a strong supporting cast create a whole world.

- Stephanie Bunbury

Also screens 6.15pm Tuesday, November 5, at Dendy.

Spirit of 45
2pm, Arc

(94 minutes, UK)

Acclaimed director Ken Loach (Kes, The Wind That Shakes The Barley, The Angel's Share) documents the social welfare reforms that defined the post-war politics of Britain.

Dirty Wars
4pm, Arc

(87 minutes, US)

Investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill and filmmaker Rick Rowley scrutinise the Obama administration's expanded use of drones and the covert Joint Special Operations Command, the black-ops assassination squad that killed Osama Bin Laden.

Answering directly to the White House, are these operations preventing global terror or perpetuating it?

Dr Michael McKinley, senior lecturer in global politics at the department of political science and international relations at the Australian National University, will lead a discussion after the screening.

In Bloom
4.30pm, Dendy

(102 minutes, Georgia)

Celebrated as a major discovery of the 2013 Berlin Film Festival, this drama drawn from writer and co-director Nana Ekvtimishvili's own childhood follows two teenage girls in 1992 Tbilisi navigating the oppressive familial and societal expectations of post-Soviet Georgia as civil war rages.

6pm, Arc

(60 minutes, Australia)

Director Ben Pederick will be on hand after this screening to discuss his documentary.

Shot in 2010, the film follows a group of Aboriginal nations as they unite on a 2300-kilometre journey to perform a rain dance by rivers in drought-affected towns.
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