October brings with it the Melbourne Festival, and a curated program of performances and exhibitions to inspire dance, theatre and music lovers. While the festival is renowned for its performance programs, it has steadily expanded the breadth and diversity of its now-impressive film program. With our endless film festivals, Melbourne is clearly movie buff territory, so the shift makes sense. From tributes to a Hollywood comedy iconoclast and ballsy Bollywood heroines, Melbourne Festival sheds light on film in its more unexamined contexts.
A Tribute to John Landis
If you are of a certain age, you spent many of your childhood Saturday nights watching the likes of Coming to America, The Blues Brothers and, when your parents weren’t around, An American Werewolf in London. The man who directed all three (and countless other American comedies besides) is John Landis, and Melbourne Festival is celebrating his filmography in a specially curated retrospective.
Programmed by Richard Moore, ex-MIFF and BIFF Artistic Director and keen Landis fan, the program encompasses screenings of many of Landis’ most beloved films, as well as a few that will be screening in Australia for the first time. Best of all, many of the screenings will feature appearances by Landis himself, who is a guest of the festival. There will be an ‘In Conversation’ session with Landis and Moore, introductions to screenings of An American Werewolf in Paris, Michael Jackson’s full Thriller music video and more, and a Q and A after ¡Three Amigos!, all culminating in a gala screening of The Blues Brothers in the appropriate setting of the Astor Theatre.
Bollywood is one of the biggest film production centres of the world, and has a longer history than most Australians may be aware of. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Indian cinema, composer and percussionist Ben Walsh (Tom Tom Crew, The Bird, Circle of Rhythm) has written a dynamic and exciting new score to one of the triumphs of early Bollywood, 1940’s Diamond Queen, starring Perth-born Mary Evans, otherwise known as Fearless Nadia. A giant of 30s and 40s Indian cinema, Fearless Nadia was beloved by audiences for her death defying stunt work (she began her career as a circus performer) and swashbuckling charm. Join Ben Walsh and the Orkestra of the Underground to see them play the score along to Diamond Queen, as they reintroduce Australian audiences to one of their forgotten silver screen stars.
Tacita Dean’s FILM
Tacita Dean, one of the original and most intriguing members of the Young British Artists art movement of the mid-90s has long intrigued audiences with her film art pieces that reflect on the nature of film, both in terms of film as a physical object, and the images to which it has the ability and power to impart.
Her newest work, FILM, focuses on the physical nature of film, and its raw state as a form of chemistry. FILM will show at ACCA, in only the second time the work has been screened after opening at London’s Tate Modern in 2011. FILM eschews the current digital film standard to celebrate celluloid and analogue film production, a practice that is becoming endangered as film printing facilities around the world shut up shop in the face of the digital onslaught.
Along with these three events, film happenings at Melbourne Festival also include theatre director Michael Kantor’s film debut of The Boy Castaways starring Tim Rogers and Megan Washington; revolutionary filmmaker Wang Bing’s documentaries on contemporary China; and Living Architectures, a seven-part film series focusing on modern architecture’s greatest works from a personal, lived-in perspective.
Melbourne Festival runs from October 11 – 27.