Tom Vincent has been watching us – in a good, not-creepy way. This is the first time the Lotterywest Festival Films program manager has been able to curate a second season of movies while the first was still running. It has allowed him to gauge audience responses and schedule accordingly. “I’m finding films that are nothing like anything else in the season,” he says.
It makes for one of the fresher and more eclectic screening programs movie-goers are likely to encounter, particularly in star-spangled, open-air cinemas like those erected at UWA Somerville and ECU Joondalup.
While Vincent has included selections from festivals such as Venice, Cannes and Montreal, two films – The Wait and Sherpa – are especially notable because they will be presented by their directors. These types of screenings, Vincent says, help argue the case for cinema. “To gather in a public space and share the emotions of others with strangers: there is no other mechanism for doing that at the price point,” he says.
Here are Vincent’s picks from the Lotterywest Festival Film’s second season.
Sherpa: Trouble on Everest
“This is an Australian-made doco about the 2014 climbing season on Everest during which 16 Sherpas were killed. The filmmakers were there to make a film about Sherpa guides, who were risking their lives to cross a very dangerous, unpredictable ice floe in order to move supplies between camps, to make the climb as easy as possible for Western tourists (who pay as much as $70,000).
But while the crew is there, a much more terrifying scenario unfolds. At first there’s a kind of stalemate. Some of the climbers are adamant that, despite the Sherpa deaths, they want to keep going. Other climbers say, ‘No, we need to be respectful and abandon this.’ Meanwhile, the Sherpas themselves debate whether to carry on or give up.”
Mon February 8 to Sun February 14, 8pm, UWA Somerville Tue February 16 to Sun February 21, 8pm, ECU Joondalup Pines
The End of the Tour
“I really love this film about two smart but fragile minds debating everything from ego to junk food. It’s about a 1996 encounter with David Foster Wallace, who had just published Infinite Jest, which was being talked about as a great American novel among the works of Jack Kerouac and Gertrude Stein. He is suddenly being seen as someone who could articulate the experience of a generation with humanity and warmth.
American journalist David Lipsky persuades his boss at Rolling Stone magazine to let him spend five days with Wallace on tour. Wallace committed suicide in 2008 and in the beginning of the film you see Lipsky digging out and listening to the tapes from that encounter.
You get the sense that Lipsky wants to be Wallace and Wallace is trying to tell him, “You don’t want to be me. Everything that I wanted to happen – all this great success – hasn’t made me feel any different about myself”. It was adapted by Pulitzer Prize-winner Donald Margulies, so there’s great pedigree in the script.”
Tue February 23 to Sun February 28, 8pm, ECU Joondalup Pines
“This is [US actor and director] Don Cheadle’s project. He had been trying to make the film for a long time because Miles Davis was a huge inspiration. The film covers a period in the mid ‘70s, after Davis had brought out a series of very successful albums. He had revolutionised jazz-fusion, and then stepped away to become a recluse.
It asks the question: what is creativity? There are these moments when you can see Davis in the process of inventing music – he can’t help it. Meanwhile Columbia Records has some old sessions of Davis’ that he doesn’t want released. He’s becoming more and more paranoid, and then he’s flashing back and remembering earlier times.
So it covers not the obvious part of Miles Davis’ life. It’s not a biopic – it’s not the Miles Davis story, but it finds the key to Davis’ character, I think. Wynton Marsalis, who gave Don Cheadle his first trumpet, was a consultant on the movie and will be appearing in the festival’s music program.”
Mon March 7 to Sun March 13, 7.30pm, UWA Somerville Tue March 15 to Sun March 20, 7.30pm, ECU Joondalup Pines
Embrace of the Serpent
“Two stories set 30 years apart, this is like nothing else in the program – it’s very trippy and spectacularly shot. It was in the Directors’ Fortnight competition at Cannes.
In 1909, a German explorer goes up the Colombian Amazon in search of a sacred plant, which is supposed to have healing qualities, but is also hallucinogenic. He encounters a shaman who has been exiled from his tribe.
Three decades later, an American scientist trying to retrace the first man’s steps, encounters the same shaman. The madness of the jungle has an effect on the explorer, and the movie gives a good sense of a centuries-old culture that is barely understood. It is very rich and beautifully photographed in black and white on wide screen and has some unforgettable photography.”
Mon March 21 to Thu March 24 Sat March 26 to Sun March 27, 7.30pm, UWA Somerville
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
“This is the third in an eagerly awaited loose trilogy from Sweden. It’s a masterfully composed, wry look at human interaction – a series of amusingly staged scenes with characters moving through, commenting on the absurdity of life.
Prior knowledge of the previous movies is not necessary – the audience immediately recognises in each one the pathos of being human. There is a scene on a ferry where someone has bitten into a sandwich and dropped dead.
People are trying to deal with the situation, so it’s about the awkwardness of not knowing what to do. It might remind people of Samuel Beckett or Laurel and Hardy in a very deadpan way. The movie is directed by Roy Andersson, a person motivated by the idea that cinema should tell stories with images. It won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. Again, it’s like nothing else in the program.”
Tue March 29 to Sun April 3, 7.30pm, ECU Joondalup Pines Mon April 4 to Sun April 10, 7.30pm, UWA Somerville
Lotterywest Festival Films runs from now until April 10, 2016. Tickets are available here.