Friday, March 4, 2011

BAFF 2011: the final countdown...

The 2011 Bigpond Adelaide Film Festival (BAFF) draws to a close this weekend, with a suitably gripping, confronting finale. Here, its key official judge, Sundance's Trevor Groth, shares his thoughts on what he's seen...

HE MAY NOT BE allowed to reveal the films that will get his nod in tomorrow’s vote, but Trevor Groth – official judge at this year’s Adelaide Film Festival, and Director of Programming at the Sundance Film Festival – does admit to being blown away by the Australian contingent.

Two films, in particular, have caught his eye. And while they’re both, ultimately, quite different, they boast a similarly powerful effect that goes far beyond the shock factor and the gut-wrenching nature of their subjects.

Snowtown and Hail: these are two of the most powerful films I’ve seen in recent years,” he says, catching his breath between sessions. “Both gut-wrenching, both very well done. They will stir a lot of audiences in very interesting ways.

“Snowtown, being based on such a horrific, true incident – and fairly recent, too – it’s one thing from an outsider’s perspective, from someone from outside the country, but it’s quite another who remembers it, who lived through it,” he says. “The performances – from mostly non-professional actors – were remarkable.

The film (pictured, above), directed by Justin Kurzel, relives the so-called ‘Bodies in the Barrels’ murders from the 1990s, that shocked and rocked the nation. The film focuses on the infamous ringleader John Bunting (Daniel Henshall) and the 16-year-old boy he befriends, Jamie (newcomer Lucas Pittaway). Hail, while similarly gruesome in places, features a perpetrator and victim as one and the same.

“With Hail,” Groth adds, “it’s a tour-de-force, of this man [Daniel P Jones] who’s lived a pretty incredible life, a challenging life, and he’s able to infuse all these experiences into art – and Amiel [Courtin-Wilson], the director, was that perfect collaborator to work with him, to help channel that. It’s a very powerful film – and again, both lead performances are very, very good. It’s gripping.”

Groth is used to seeing the best of the world’s films, having worked for Sundance for 20 years. Despite this – this year’s event in Utah saw a record 10,000 film submissions for him and his staff to sift through – his enthusiasm for the job is more evident than ever, following January’s most successful Sundance yet. Part of the key to the event’s revived fortunes: a refocused emphasis on looking forward, as the models of filmmaking change at an ever-increasing rate.

Two films premiering at 'BAFF' (BigPond has sponsored this year's Adelaide Film Festival) – Life in Movement, Shut Up Little Man! – highlight the fact well. While the former (pictured, above) utilises private and public footage of the late dancing star Tanja Liedtke in a unique way, the latter documents a pre-YouTube viral phenomenon (the latter first screening, coincidentally, at Sundance, in January.) Both are from Closer Productions – a South Australia-based outfit currently on a creative roll.

Groth expands: “We world-premiered Shut Up Little Man! at Sundance in our International Documentary Competition – it’s a US subject made by international filmmakers, with universal qualities to it. It couldn’t be more relevant, given its subject matter.
“The producers of that had another film that world-premiered here last night – Life in Movement. Which was beautiful and inspirational and incredibly sad, at times. I think they found the life and the hope in that tragic story [Leidtke’s life was cut tragically short back in 2007, as her star was rising]. It’s remarkable.

“We live in an age where people are going to have more and more access to documented lives – everyone has cameras in their phone, and everyone’s taking pictures and documenting their lives. And this woman was an artist and used that tool to create art. And it also serves as a way of capturing her life.

"To see her process, of creating art through these videos and the interviews they had with her – it’s a unique documentary. I’ve rarely seen an artistic process captured in film like this – it’s so enlightening, so inspirational. You see the commitment that goes into it. I was left asking myself: ‘Man, am I doing everything I possibly can – am I giving my all in everything I do?’ It was one of the great strengths of the film. I was very moved by it all.”

Shut Up Little Man! has its Australian premiere tonight, Friday, at 7pm, with a repeat screening on Sunday.

Life in Movement screens again Saturday, at 3pm. Snowtown screens again Sunday, at 3pm. 



  1. Life in Movement was amazing last nite