Broker

BROKER – A FILM FROM THE PERTH INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
This fascinating film delves into the murky world of adoption and child brokering. It is a moving drama about people pushed together by fate who end up not only helping each other to survive but elevating them through an increasingly harsh business.
Kor-eda travelled to South Korea to tell this story because baby boxes are familiar phenomena in this country and are used by ladies who do not or cannot keep their babies.
Song Kang ho the famous Korean actor plays Ha- Sang-hyeon-the owner of a laundry shop who volunteers at a local church. He and his friend Dong-soo (Gang Dong won) take the infants out of these boxes and then sell them on the adoption market.
The question raised by this film is “ is it better for a baby to enter the Korean foster system then be sold to a family that will love and care for it.”
The film also looks at parenting and questions whether it is better to abort a child at an early stage or whether bringing a child into a cold cruel world is the right thing to do. So-young(Lee-Ji- eun) is a very young mother who gives up her child for adoption but after a few days realises that she wants her baby back and comes back to claim it. It is then that she realises that everything is not as it seems.
Lee – Ji – eun is really the glue that hold the story together. She is caught between San-hyeon’s underground bid to sell her child and the two detectives (Doona) and her sidekick detective Lei ( Lee-Joo-young). Ji-eun as So young brings a lot of depth to the role of a young mother who only wants the best for her child.
This is an unexpectedly heart-warming drama,  whose darker themes of social dysfunction and fissure are sublimated into a story of real sweetness. No stone is left unturned in creating a masterpiece of a motion picture.

OTHER PEOPLE’S CHILDREN

What do you say about a lady who thinks she has come close to realizing that her time to have children is gradually diminishing?

Virginia Efira plays Rachel a single woman in her late 30’s who is a much-loved teacher and who obviously loves children. She then meets Ali (Roschdy Zem) a handsome divorced man who has shared custody of his daughter Leila with his ex- wife ( Chiara Mastroianni). Ali and Rachel begin a passionate love affair which is complicated by her relationship with Leila whom she adores but who clearly needs some time to get used to her.

Unfortunately, Rachel gradually realizes during her visits to the gynecologist that she may never get pregnant so she has to try and persuade Leila to think of her as her new mum. This is made more difficult by the constant appearance of Ali’s ex partner on the scene. The tragedy of this situation is that Rachel realises that she is in a very precarious situation Although Ali obviously loves her – he could easily break up with her and take up with a younger woman who could give him more kids. The film deals with a very pertinent issue that could affect any career woman who has to make that important decision of whether to have a baby or climb up the ladder of success.

The films drama concentrates on complex emotional scales and explores them with a focus on the character’s inner lives.

Ali is committed to his daughter and Rachel is determined to become part of this little unit. She has found and Zlotowski is committed to exploring a truth so common to many hybrid families.

The film’s larger mission is to bring us into Rachel’s thoughts and life and to experience both in the moment. This it succeeds in doing very well.

I would like to conclude by saying that the acting of all the main characters was absolutely brilliant and we the audience definitely felt for Rachel as she plodded and sometimes skipped through the various important emotions of getting to be a mature woman.

My old school

MY OLD SCHOOL – A FILM FROM THE PERTH INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

This film is about the true story of Brandon Lee, a pupil at Bearsdan Academy who was not what he seemed to be. The tale made world headlines and now is the subject of a doco written and directed by Jono Mcleod.

For some unknown reason Lee was interviewed for the film but refused to act in the film. Instead Alan Cummings lip synched his words brilliantly and it really looked like Lee was talking.

This is a film with excellent performances and really funny animation. This new breed of film is known as a hybrid and seems to be very popular with modern audiences because they use the wonders of acting and animation to tell a story – and if the animation is good we have a great evening ahead of us.

Using interviews with others from his school, archive footage and really hilarious animated re-creations we gradually learn about a mysterious classmate who dazzled a class with his advanced grasp of subject matter and also was a star in the annual school production of “South Pacific”, only later to be found out as a three year grafter trying to secure a second shot at medical school by erasing his life and starting again. Mcleod conducts interview in pairs giving his old mates the opportunity to play off each other’s recollections of the strange events and chuckle at their own gullibility.

I have tried not to give too much of the story away as it gets more and more interesting as the film progresses and the film needs to be seen to be believed.

Suffice to say, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the film and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants a great night out. 

LUNANA – THE YAK IN THE CLASSROOM

LUNANA:THE YAK IN THE CLASSROOM – A FILM THAT IS PART OF THE PERTH INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

What is more important – being a citizen of a land where the most important thing is achieving emotional happiness or coming to Australia – a land of supposed  hope and glory where most people  are well off but not  really happy.

This fact is highlighted in this film which brings to the fore the importance of being happy with nothing and filling one’s heart with gratitude and joy.

The real natural beauty of Bhutan and employing local villagers to act also helps to give this film a realistic refreshing look that is much more genuine. The musical score is also tremendously uplifting.

I feel that the director wanted to highlight the fact that despite all the wealth in the world, there are still parts of the world where access to water and electricity is scarce and children run around barefooted and have no idea of the wonders of the toothbrush.

The film also talks about the Yak as an abstract to depict home is where the heart. It also suggests that a Karmic connection exists between the Yak who gives itself up completely to the land and the people who work on that land.

The film shows us the beautiful sideof Bhutan, Thimphu, Lunana and Gasa as we meander through the countryside eventually arriving at Lunana – a remote village hidden away in the beautiful mountains of Bhutan.

The use of simple props like wooden bowls for eating, traditional clothing and the simplicity of the people are all endearing aspects of the film.

The message from the film is to know your land and love it despite the fact it cannot provide all the comforts of the modern world. We also learn that acceptance, respect and love are all important things in life. The film is simple, sweet and full of emotion. Only pursuing our own dreams does not make us the people we are – it is helping others pursue theirs. 

****1/2

Return to Seoul

RETURN TO SEOUL – A FILM AT THE PERTH INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

This film by Davy Chou ponders a young woman’s constant evolution. Freddie (Park Ji –Min) is a troubled 25 year old who was born in South Korea but raised in France by french parents. One of her ideals in life is to plunge into the unknown head on and only later think of the drastic consequences that could follow. She appears to roll with the tide of change in an unsettling manner.

The film seems to concentrate on the impermanence of everything around us – ourselves, our friends and the world in general.

At the start we notice Freddie books a flight to South Korea  on a whim to ostensibly look for her biological parents. She doesn’t speak the language or even have the names of her biological parents.

Fortunately she makes friends with the receptionist (Guka Han) at the local hotel that she is staying at, who also happens to speak French and who decides to take her under her wing. Freddie’s engaging sexy presence attracts many who encounter her like the sweet faced nerd ( Kim Dong Seok) who wants more than a one night stand, a grimy tattooer ( Lim Cheoh Hyun)with a stash of psychedelics and an international arms dealer ( Louis Dode Lacquesaing) who arranges a rendezvous on a hook-up app and then is so impressed by her even offers her a job in the arms trade.

Freddie is painted as one who craves stimulation, shifting personalities many times over the eight years of the film. We can understand why this “foreigner” in France who can’t help standing out would grow into a misfit incapable of forming genuine bonds with people she meets and so easily discards.

Chou himself is the French born grandson of a Cambodian film producer who vanished in 1969 as the Khmer Rouge seized control of the country’s movie industry. I think he therefore found it very easy to understand the contradictions in Freddie’s feeling, that she had been robbed of a life she did not think she actually wanted to live. The film was informed by Chou’s own sense of dislocation and connection as someone who was born in France to Cambodian parents but did not visit till he was 25 years old.

Freddie decides to start on her adoptive family search by visiting the Hammond Adoption Centre to enquire about her biological parents. A torn photo of herself as an infant in the arms of a woman she believes to be her mother opens the door to a possible meeting.

In her initial meeting with her father language barriers, cultural differences and the mutual unspoken eagerness to connect knocks the reserve out of Freddie. She is told that her Korean name is Yeoa –hee and that her father had to give her away because her mother wanted to live in the city not the countryside where he originally resided. The father experiences a lot of guilt about leaving her –he therefore calls her often late at night while he is in a drunken stupor causing his daughter a lot of annoyance.

The film ends on a sad note for me because although Freddie gets to meet her biological mother, there is a lot of joy, guilt and sadness. And for whatever reason   the mother does not want to continue the relationship.

This film has universal appeal because culturally specific stories of being uprooted and transplanted have universal resonance.

YOU CAN GO NOW

This film is about the famous artist Richard Bell who calls himself the “activist artist” For 30 years he has used his canvases to make bold statements about what he would like to achieve for the Aboriginal peoples.

Bell was born in Charleville in South western Queensland in 1953. He grew up in abject poverty living in a tent for the first two years of his life on an Aboriginal reserve.  He said “We had to wait for the white people to throw away enough corrugated iron to make a tin shack” His late mother Sarah Bell was an extremely religious woman who raised Richard and his younger brother Marshall on her own job as a house parent at the infamous Retta Dixon home in Darwin which housed Aboriginal children many of whom were part of the stolen generation.

Currently the Museum of Contemporary Art is showing his biggest solo show to date. The film gets its name from his 2017 painting “Immigration Policy” which reads “ you can go now” in large earth toned upper case letters on a map of Australia. This painting confronts all visitors the moment they walk into the first floor southern gallery.

This Kamilaroi, Kooma, Jiman and Goreng Goreng man told the Guardian that he thinks Australia needs a fundamental reset to embed the rights of the indigenous people as the country’s traditional and continuing owners. In his words “We need a new constitution for a new republic. But what would that mean practically. There’s got to be a day of reckoning .There has to be an exchange of money and land that cannot be avoided. Until then we are never going to say that you (non-indigenous) belong here. You will not be able to say that till we can say you can.

IN the centre of the room in the Museum of Contemporary Art is a large Khaki tent with “Aboriginal Embassy “on it. This is a homage to the first Aboriginal people tent Embassy erected opposite Parliament house in Canberra in 1977 to protest Mcmahon Liberal government’s rejection of Aboriginal land rights. Bell’s Embassy has travelled far and wide from the 2016 Sydney biennale to the Brisbane festival as well as the Venice biennale in 2019 where Bell provocatively wrapped a replica of the Australian pavilion in chains and sailed it on a barge down the canal, after he was rejected as Australia’s official artist. Bell feels that if we got a new constitution that empowers Aboriginal people then a treaty with indigenous people would be rendered unnecessary.   Bell also says that knowing Australia’s inclination for change a new constitution seems extremely unlikely.

Bell says he became politicized when he worked at Redfern for ten years when he played for the Redfern All Black’s Rugby League Club and he developed friendships with the Black Panther member Emery Douglas.

In 2002, Bell wrote “Bells theorem” which basically suggested that Aboriginal art is a white thing – and yet in 2006 Bell’s painting declares “ Australian art – it is an ABORIGINAL THING.

I would like to end by saying this film is really interesting to people who want to know more about Richard Bell – the artist and the activist who profoundly challenged the art world with his scorching manifesto Bell’s theorem which labelled the Aboriginal art industry as a white thing defined by colonial powers that profited from it. Bells ideas and philosophy cannot be ignored at this important time in Australian politics. 

CORSAGE

This brilliantly acted film is about Empress Elizabeth of Austria also known as “ Sissi”. It imagines her home life in 1877 – the year of her 40th birthday. It is broadly historically accurate – although the references to her taking heroin may be a bit of fabrication.

The film wants to emphasize the luxurious delirium of loneliness – although she was nationally cherished and despite the fact that the Viennese cottage industry made a lot of Elizabeth themed coffee mugs and tourist bric-a-brac that was rivalled only by Mozart. The Kreutzer sees her melancholy as part of the tension that led to the First World War.

The film depicts a restless Elizabeth touring Europe trying to break free literally and figuratively from the constricted life she had to endure at the court.

Krieps acting is brilliant and so completely natural; it would be fair to say that in this instance the actor disappears into the role and therefore the role becomes stronger and more powerful. Kriep’s secret smiles and sudden outbursts of inappropriate laughter, her mercurial moods and the judge me if you like dare challenge brings her back to life again. We see in this film a troubled hamstrung woman being given a definite second chance.

In this film Krieps and Kreutzer work to reverse a process of self erasure the Empress herself initiated when she retreated behind a heavy veil, refusing to be photographed and kept cinching her waistline even tighter as though to physically reduce her presence in the world. Hero worship for an icon as enduringly popular as Sissi can become its own prison but the beautiful Krieps displays a different if no less passionate affection for a woman struggling to breathe inside her corset.

I would like to conclude by saying the film feels like an invitation into a secret conspiracy to reach back through time and with deft 21st century fingers loosen the stays on Empress Elizabeth’s corsetry a little.

****1/2