Comedies would seem to be the last broad category to tackle, but seeing as how the majority of these films would have been made during the pandemic, it’s understandable that laughter wasn’t the first thing on most filmmakers’ minds.
There is one pure comedy on this year’s slate, which we’ll get to first, but the remainder of this preview will be to discuss a handful of other films of note that have not been mentioned in our previews to date. The festival is this Saturday at the Lido in Hawthorn, and you can reserve your tickets here.
That pure Aussie comedy is Hatchback, director Riley Sugars’ tale of the inappropriate means of transportation a hapless criminal steals to move a body. Stephen Curry and Jackson Tozer star as the types of low-level thugs charged with disposing of a body for the mob, but credited with more intelligence about how to do it than they actually have. Vince seems to know what he’s doing, sort of, but the situation spirals for them when his brother-in-law Ted can only find a small hatchback to steal.
The 12-minute short depicts an age-old strained camaraderie between Australian criminals that has a proud history in the filmmaking of this country. Both stars are hilarious in their respective roles, the eager but hopeless newcomer and the put-upon veteran held back by being forced to rely on lesser resources. It’s got a wicked black comedy tone that produces real laughs.
Characterised as a comedy for some, but surely not all, of its running time is MumLife, which is more notably for being a musical. And if you ever wondered how many songs a filmmaker might fit into a 15-minute short, the answer is four — while still leaving plenty of time for plot.
Ruby Challenger’s film documents the ups and downs — mostly downs — of new motherhood for Sarah (Chloe Bayliss) as she navigates nursing routines, mother’s groups, a loving but possibly oblivious husband (Alan Zhu) and a loving but possibly insensitive gay best friend (Joe Donovan). With so much drama and a brand new set of life circumstances, the only choice is to break into song to expel the joys (few) and stresses (many).
Challenger masters the many tones she’s going for here, able to turn on a dime from comedy to tragedy to approximate all the vicissitudes of a new life caring for a small human. Bayliss really shines as the woman at the middle of this maelstrom of song and dance and crying babies.
As we turn a bit darker, TAM may be the most technically challenging film on the docket for RGFF23. Director Noora Niasari has made a single-take 12 minutes film — as in, no edits at all — that captures the horror of waking up in an unfamiliar bed after a half-remembered night of partying, and possibly of consuming drugs you didn’t know you were consuming, possibly mixed into your drink.
Jillian Nguyen stars as the title character, who wakes up, disoriented, with a man (Nick Barkla) asleep in the bed next to her. He won’t stay asleep, as Tam’s attempts to tiptoe out of the room without waking him are doomed to failure.
The handheld camera, which stays on Tam the entire time, acquaints us intimately with her perspective, and with the terror she feels finding herself in a circumstance not of her own making, with no certain path to safety. The film confronts us with the intensity and uncompromising quality of its vision.
Last we have one of the most visually distinctive films of the festival, as James Hunter’s Nest is told in rich and beautiful black and white. In a scant nine minutes of screen time, he captures a similar sense of the alienation of young parenthood as in MumLife, though this time it’s from the perspective of the father, the traditional breadwinner — one who isn’t winning the bread as he should, through no fault of his own.
Lasarus Ratuere plays a lumberjack trying to earn enough money to provide for his family living in their rural cabin. However, his foreman denies him wages on technicalities, leaving his daytime hopeless and his nighttime tormented by a hungry child crying out in its sleep. When he finds in a birds nest in one of the trees he fells, it assumes a sort of mystical, metaphorical quality in his family’s life.
Nest is all about atmosphere and performance, as it taps into the desperation of its main character with a minimum of dialogue and a maximum of tone and mood. And as stated previously, that black and white cinematography looks absolutely gorgeous.
If you’ve been putting it off, do it now! Buy your tickets for this Saturday’s festival here.