Sisterhood of the Travelling Film Festival

Shall I tell you what I have just survived????

It’s not near-death by jungle python, or near-miss by a bison; although, with the relief I feel at it being finished, it could be totally reclassified as such…)


i meme because i can… 🙂

No, It was a solid 72 hours of film festival. To the uninitiated, that’s 9 films, 30 shorts and very little space in between…

Over here we have a travelling film festival. Founded in 1974, it aims to provide audiences in regional areas access to films they would otherwise not have the opportunity to see. It showcases Australian and international features, documentaries and short films. The TFF currently tours to 19 locations annually. Our little next door borough, is one of those lucky places.

That’s because the town over from mine houses a cinema. (That’s one step up from my village which houses a post office, and not much else…) It is tiny; barely bigger than a house, (which it actually used to be). Surrounded by buckled brick paths, it sits wistfully on the corner of the main street, overlooking all the fancy other buildings, that used to be just as bedraggled, but have since (in the last 100 yrs) been nipped, tucked, lifted and shellacked into more modern and alluring shapes.

Inside, the theatre houses a drink machine with no ice (‘we’re lucky there was a soda dispenser small enough to fit in here – getting one with ice would be testing the Almighty too much…’); a rickety old white fridge that house 5 flavours of choc-tops), a unisex toilet and a single viewing screen. The seats rock, and are stained in suspicious patterns; they are also dead horizontal with no incline – so when you are watching the a film, the 15 heads in front of you are directly in the view of the screen.

I usually spend my weekends reading, escaping the overly populated world of the  ‘burbs, by sinking into a more sparsely peopled fiction. It’s lovely, it’s quiet. It’s the same reason I watch movies. In the peace and quiet of my home.

So to have so many movies smooshed together, and shown in a communal space filled with people, smells, foods, and burps? This is NOT my idea of a time well spent.

(I truly believe since surviving this, that the only people who enjoy cinema-going are extroverts)

But, I had tickets, and waste not, want etc, I went into it thinking, even if it wasn’t that wonderful, its still an EXPERIENCE, right? right? RIGHT?

I am still at this point in a daze-filled blur (pre-1890 novels would say ‘right mazed’).


yes, this is the after-photo….

I think one of the most interesting things about movies, is how individual definition and enjoyment classifies the movies themselves; are they good or bad? were they hated or enjoyed? are we still arguing about them or have forgotten their existence once the credits roll?

Sure, there were movies that I enjoyed, but the ones that I am still thinking about were the ones that truly impacted me – and not always in a positive way….

A lot of the ones I am listing haven’t been released in any commercial sense, and certainly not in any national/international theatres; some are in the festival in an effort to gain enough interest and get themselves bought and shown and distributed….BUT if you do come across them, they are SO DEFINITELY worth watching. Some are even worth tracking down.

Women He’s Undressed

This was the opening film for the festival and it kind of set the bar really high. It’s a cinema-length documentary on Australian costume designer Orry-Kelly.

Now if you are anything like me, you’re going Orry-Who? But in the booming Hollywoodland era he was huge. He designed, be-costumed and dressed on near 300 films – and not shabby ones either: An American in Paris, Casablanca; Oklahoma!, Auntie Mame, Some Like It Hot. He dressed Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Barbara Stanwyck and even Angela Lansbury and Jane Fonda.

Not only is it a fabulously produced documentary, with gorgeous archival footage, and excellent interviews; it has a very campy, theatre/play feel to it that brings Orry-Kelly completely to life.

Mild Spoiler: the only thing I felt to be unnecessary, was the need to make a particular well-known actor as the bad guy. Frankly, so much happened to Orry-Kelly in his life, they really didn’t to embellish on it at all – and not just because it completely crushed most of my childhood movie dreams…

Tehran Taxi.

I had mixed feelings about this one. On one hand, it won the prestigious Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival; it is clever and original and an interesting insight in to the life and times of Tehran. On the other hand, it is presented as a documentary/hidden camera-expose-thing, where people are driven around, expressing their views and feelings about random (and not-so random) things. It feels like it’s supposed to be actual ‘real life’ but there are waaay to many coincidences – Jafar Panahi (who directed and created the film) is the driver, he says very little, mostly allowing people to get on with their ‘bits’ and accommodating them in their requests.

  • There is the niece who happens to be studying film at school with the list of what makes a good and ‘appropriate’ Iranian film: avoiding ‘sordid realism’; the good guys not wearing ties; using the names of Islamic saints for the heroes, etc;
  • the lawyer who visited him while he was in prison, on her way to visit other imprisoned people;
  • the wife whose beaten husband wanted to leave her a proper last will and testament so she wouldn’t be left penniless…

On the third hand; Jafar Panahi has been imprisoned because he makes these films. In December 2010 Panahi was sentenced to a six-year jail sentence and a 20-year ban on directing any movies, writing screenplays, giving any form of interview with Iranian or foreign media, or from leaving the country. During this time, he made This is Not a Film (2011), a documentary feature that was smuggled out of Iran in a flash drive hidden inside of a cake. I kid you not.

Tehran Taxi, has no credits, excepting Panahi himself, on the account that those affiliated with him and his films could be endangered and/or arrested as a result. The closing credits simply have a heartfelt thank you from Panahi, wishing he could name those who helped, but that it was safer not to.

The fact that he managed to make a film and get it out of the country and into circulation is an admirable feat all by itself. Should we be quibbling if it’s a little shaky on plot or believability??

A Second Chance 

(warning re trailer — it’s a little…extreme – lots of screaming and a few f-bombs (much like the movie really…) so you have been warned!)

Well – I had a rather spirited disagreement with a friend after watching this together. I HATED this movie with a passion. That’s not to deny that it is powerful, well acted, beautifully shot and designed in that stark, starlit and visceral way that Danish films all seem to end up being like… BUT really, the foreshadowing on this was about as blatant as a leanly elegant Dane smacking me upside the head with a bag filled with quarters.


Seriously. Within I’d say five minutes of the opening credits, I was rolling my eyes. The highly strung wife; the newly born child; the policeman husband that discovers the badly cared for baby, hungry and soiled in  the drug addict/wife beater’s apartment. Can anyone say awkward baby swap in the offing? (totally not a spoiler BTW)

I hated every minute of this completely formulaic and very un-adventuress and oh-so serious cross between The Prince & The Pauper and BabySwap.

BUT my friend loved it. Thought it was worthy, well acted and the only possible resolution that could have occurred.

Personally, I am tired of badly ending baby-swaps that seem like righteous retribution on the swapper, despite the swappee’s complete and utter lack of parenting skill.

Just once I’d like to see someone make a movie about switching a baby and it working out well.

Cos that never happens.


Totally groundbreaking – I would be riveted.

And a complete inversion of tropes that people are too scared to mess with. What? Don’t give me the chook-eye — I’m just contrary like that.

The Crow’s Egg

Another overly-long subtitled extravaganza wrapped around a thin, thin, thin plot. Like crispy pizza base thin. Ironically enough, the movie revolves around Pizza as well. Two brothers from the slums desperately want to try pizza, and spend the entire movie running around gathering up enough money and going various Adventures and Places to accomplish said mission.

It has fantastic music and far too many lingering slow-motion shots on the two brothers’ melting brown eyes and snub noses – but there was an entire contingent of brooding mother hen-types that spent the movie alternatively sighing wistfully and surreptitiously swiping away tears.

It passed the time fairly well.

Wild Tales

This one was AWESOME. An Academy Award Nominated Argentinian-Spanish black comedy. It is actually a series of 6 unrelated vignettes of people who are driven to extremes. It is cynical, lethal, sharp and truly funny.

They sound so innocuous at first glance too: Aeroplane passengers who realise they all have something in common; a waitress who recognises a face from the past; a escalation of road rage; a parking fine that an engineer finds unfair; a rich father covering up his son’s crime; a bride and groom have a fight at a wedding…

It’s horrifying and hysterically funny and not for the faint hearted; but I love the length of extremes to which the story lines are pushed out to. It is purposeful in letting humans run to length of their leash and beyond. There is this cathartic smugness with which you as the viewer can see the worst elements of events and people played out to their outer-most limits – to that liminal point where reality just touches the threshold of fantasy.

It is both flinching and unflinching in its portrayal of the funnier and nastier and ironically cruel elements of human nature.

Of course I am a cynical, acerbic and predominately grumpy person, so that kind of thing appeals to me. I loved it.

My Love Don’t Cross That River


I think I was alone in this one. A sole voice in the hurricane of overpowering affection and love for this documentary. Following a married couple for 15 months, it documents their affection and journey. They’d been married for 76 years and they really were sweet; but I had too many questions, which were so adeptly avoided.

They were supposed to collecting firewood for a living – but their traditional Korean clothes (that matched) were always immaculately pressed and clean. Also, they lived alone and seemingly isolated from the local village – but the wife always had perfectly dressed hair….

Who chopped all their symmetrically round lengths of firewood, given the bouts of un-wellness? Why was their house furnished with sofas, stoves and all manner of furniture if they only ever seemed to live in their kitchen off the floor?

This didn’t gain a theatre release, but apparently it was the highest grossing Korean documentary in history. I felt it was all a little overblown and completely a vehicle for marriage propaganda. Anytime I question the sanctity of the union of marriage and its point in the 21st century, I just know someone is going to lob this at my head.

This was so not my cup of tea – but there was not a dry eye in the theatre. If you see it – unless you are grinch-like like myself – take some tissues – the opening scenes will clearly tell you how the whole thing is going to play out…

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence.


There was a large amount of haters in the cinema after this one…most of the people I talked to didn’t like it. Indeed the friend I went with to this screening thought it was the longest waste of time she’s had the misfortune to sit through.

I am in two minds about it.

(I’m bringing out the hands again)


On one hand – it had horrible and unreasonably cruel vignettes, that clearly depict our unthinking and often illogical and pointless cruelty to both fellow humans and animals.

But, on the other hand, this is the movie I have been thinking the most about.

It was odd, and dream like; filled with slow-moving and often dull palid people. It often felt like an uneasy alliance between The Far Side and Roald Dahl with a vicious bit of Tarantino thrown in.

The scenes are shot only from one angle, from a distance, so you are never able to see the close up expressions on their faces; and although the stories are interrelated, they are not interconnected. Each is like its own encapsulated world. A series of dioramas on the human condition, if you will.

At my first watch, the tragicomic feel of the earlier shorts are completely outweighed towards the end by some truly awful scenes. One in particular, of a black-tie dinner party of aged gentry watching a mysterious copper cylinder being turned by horrific means to make orchestral sounding music.

It starts off odd, slowly gets funny, then veers off into strange, dark and desperately sad territory.

BUT, the thing is, the further I have got from the film, the more I have thought about it. The more I have pondered it, the more I have remembered the more pleasant parts.

Is that truly great film making? Or, as my dad would say, utter bollocks?

I don’t know – but it certainly held my attention, past the credits, and that’s more than many films have done.


This was slowly riveting, intriguing and beautiful.

Set in Berlin after WWII, Nelly, a Jewish-German nightclub singer, surviving concentration camp, returns to try and rebuild her life. Her face was disfigured by a bullet wound and reconstructive surgery leaves her looking similar, but not quite like how she used to. Determined to find out if her husband is the one who betrayed her to the Germans, she tracks him down. In a double blind, her husband doesn’t recognise her, but thinking she looks similar enough to his ‘dead’ wife, that he offers to split his wife’s estate and inheritance with her, if she pretends to be her.

I know right?

Drama, plot and tension all ensue – but it is very well done with the loveliest and most lady like F-you at the end, that is simply perfect.

I really liked this one.

Death In Bloom

This 12 minute short had to be my FAVOURITE out of all. It was canny and artful, divinely shot and completely immersing.

I was so sad that is was only a short – I wanted more dammit – I wanted a whole story!

Death salesmen, elegant ladies of the manor and clever photography all made this a STELLAR film.

So that was my weekend.

I now have a movie-migrane and a cramped neck….but it was interesting, even it a little unpleasant. I like books for escapism, but I love movies that push the boundaries; that make me think and view the world in a slightly different way. They may not all have been good, but they certainly all were WORTHY, and in a world of superficial and often puerile entertainment, I think THAT is a novelty in itself.

If you get the chance, you should TOTALLY watch them. I can’t guarantee you’ll enjoy them…but I can guarantee they will make you think.


ValancyBlu: currently hugging a cat….cos that is the only cure for over-movie-ing.


4 thoughts on “Sisterhood of the Travelling Film Festival

  1. Funny you posted about the Jaffar Panahi movie–I was just reading about it elsewhere! I’m not a big fan of movies but some of these sound really interesting, especially Death in Bloom.

    Oh and I loved this sentence: Surrounded by buckled brick paths, it sits wistfully on the corner of the main street, overlooking all the fancy other buildings, that used to be just as bedraggled, but have since (in the last 100 yrs) been nipped, tucked, lifted and shellacked into more modern and alluring shapes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww- thank u! 🙂 Our poor little cinema – it’s so old and rickety and EVERYONE whinges about it – but if they knocked it down and built a new fancy one? I don’t think it would have anywhere near the character. So it limps along, and we pretend it doesn’t smell like wet dog, socks and stale popcorn!
      Death in Bloom WAS wonderful – so short and sweet I wanted so much more…sigh. Film festivals are such a mixed bag really – and I wonder if the collecting of such a lot of films in such a short space of time is more detrimental to movies than we think. I became far less tolerant of ones that were a bit lacklustre – and downright hated others – when perhaps if I had seen them in isolation, I may have liked it more? It’s an interesting thought…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I just remembered—the Orry Kelly movie reminded me of this FABULOUS Australian show I binge watched earlier this year—Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. One of the reasons I adore that show is because of the outstanding costumes that Miss Fisher sports. It’s a detail that not only adds to the period feel of the show but also amplifies my enjoyment of it!


    1. That is SUCH a good series – and there are plans to make a Miss Fisher feature-length film – which I am well excited about! I think we (Australians) are always a little bemused when our stuff becomes popular in other countries… especially when it’s actually made with Australian peoples…So much of our shows are very Oz-specific and don’t translate that well, and even we (although we daren’t admit for fear of anti-patriotism calls) don’t really like them that much. (Kath & Kim I’m looking at you!) But Miss Fisher is so well done – you are totally right – the costumes are gorgeous – it never feels like they scrimped on the detail to save a dollar.
      I don’t know if you’ve seen, but there are some shorts here, and here, with Marion Boyce, the costume designer for the series – which are really interesting – about the style and way the costumes were designed.

      Made me want to watch the series all over again!


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