Article — Bedevil: Australia’s Forgotten Cinematic Treasure

Australian cinema has been on a bit of a rollercoaster ride for quite some time. Aside from the odd critical success stories, such as Picnic At Hanging Rock (1975) or Ten Canoes (2006), Australian cinema has never been as beloved, nor taken as seriously, as films from other countries; mostly because of the success of those fantastically outrageous ‘Ozploitation’ (that wondrous period in Australian film filled with boobs, bobs and excessive violence) movies which, aside from perhaps Mad Max (1979) have being treated as simple and cheap entertainment.

And with all of the great Australian films that have and will no doubt continue to be made, there is one which, for one reason or another, has being denied its appropriate place in Australian film history. This is a film that is one of the finest cinematic achievements the country has ever produced. It is a film from 1993 called Bedevil.

This film is a miracle in its mere existence. It is directed by renowned indigenous artist, Tracey Moffatt, who is one of the most unique Australian artists working in the scene today and who also created the brilliant short film Night Cries: A Rural Tragedy (1990), which showed her keen sense for the cinematic. In Night Cries she creates an environment in which an aboriginal orphan has to take care of her dying, rich and white foster parent: feeding her, clothing her, bathing her, and regularly taking her to the outhouse. Despite this simple story, its brief ten minute running time is laden with breathtaking artificiality, using studio sets and exaggerated lighting to create a deeply troubling environment which is often quite disturbing to witness.

The film is about an anthology of  Australian based horror horror stories, starring some brilliant Australian actors such as the immortal Jack Charles recounting his tale of his childhood and of the ghost of an american soldier who drowned in quicksand. Lex Marinos playing a sympathetic yet still patronising landlord, and even Tracey Moffat herself playing as Ruby; a woman whose house is bewitched by the lost souls of the nearby train tracks.

This film was shown at Cannes Film Festival 1993 and won numerous awards, and Moffatt was celebrated immensely overseas, but forgotten and ignored here in her home country. So in 1992, she set about to produce her first (and so far only) feature film: Bedevil. In the film she creates the same sense of unease and cultural displacement which was featured in Night Cries and expands on it tenfold. Where Night Cries was more of an experimental horror film, Bedevil follows a much more digestible but by no means lesser creation of immense power and fortitude.

The images Moffatt uses within the film, blending intense artificiality with subtle touches of naturalism, to create one of the most unique, beautiful, weirdest, and most challenging of films that Australian cinema has ever seen. The film sparks with glorious beauty and sparkling originality. But why is it barely even seen by the general Australian public, much less celebrated?

The film’s historical significance within both feminist and indigenous circles already makes it go without saying. The fact that it is the very first movie made by an indigenous woman is an amazing achievement, but the fact it took until 1993 for an indigenous director to get international recognition is outrageous. It is strange that she faced so much resistance in making the film is also something that our film industry (being mostly controlled by straight white men) is almost sickening.

Aesthetically, it is most ingenious. The only other film directors that can come close to her style are British film makers Ken Russell (The Devils, 1971) and Derek Jarman (Caravaggio, 1986). She has created a style and a voice that is uniquely her own, and it is an absolute joy to watch her work unfold on screen.

Bedevil is a film that should be considered a national treasure. Moffatt’s worth to the Australian filmmaking scene is unparalleled in our cinema’s history. The fact that her films are slowly disappearing into obscurity is insulting, and she is one of the most unique and talented artistic voices working in the scene today.

When most well-known Australian cinema is being created by great European directors (Werner Herzog’s Where the Green Ants Dream (1984) and Nicolas Roeg’s Walkabout (1971) for example, which are brilliant) or white males telling the stories of aboriginal people (Rolf De Heer’s The Tracker (2002) or Peter Weir’s The Last Wave (1977), which are both fantastic), it is more important than ever that Moffatt, as well as that of other aboriginal artists, be recognised and allowed to flourish. It is more important than ever to celebrate and cherish the work created by artists and filmmakers like Moffatt and that we protect them at all costs.

Currently it costs $80 to buy a DVD copy of Bedevil but it costs $5.50 on Vimeo, which I will provide the link for. Either way it is worth every single penny. https://vimeo.com/ondemand/bedevil

A Strange Country — On The Insanity of the “No” vote

I would never have thought, as I grew up in a semi-rural town and learned to deal with my homosexuality as covertly and as indistinctly as possible, that I would one day be told that my prospects of marrying the man that I love would become a distinct possibility. However much my love for the same sex would be attacked by my own sense of christian doom (having being brought up in an obsessively religious school) or by my fellow classmates or teachers, the ongoing thought that the feelings I felt would be somewhat vindicated would be wondrous, not to mention liberating, where I knew that I would be able to shout my love for another man over the hills and not be afraid of public attack or ridicule. As I grew older and watched on as the world welcomed same sex marriage with open arms, I felt that my country would be swift to do the same, as I believed, quite naively as it turns out, that Australians are, on the whole, people who love the fair go, and enjoy’s the prosperity of it’s fellow citizens.

Despite seeing so many people I know and love become succumbed by christian fundamentalism, drugs, booze, or self pity, or a thorough combination of all the above, I have grown to believe that politics is one of the major pushing forces for change and improvement in our country. As the years went by, this thought began to disintegrate more and more, and, now, with the marriage equality “yes or no” vote throughly underway, the belief in our countries politicians and it’s rhetoric, has disappeared altogether.

Living gay in Australia is, as of this point of our history, a very arduous and disheartening prospect. Most members of the LGBT+ community have suffered discrimination as well as the steady prospect of ignorance and abandonment which has lead to the suffering and repression of the community; especially towards the young, the most vulnerable of our beautiful community.

I need not tell you about the deceptive ads that have crept up on television; being the ones targeting not the actual issue of marriage equality but, it seems, talking about the rights of the parents to “choose”. To what this implies has yet to be clarified however, seeing as how the arguments pertaining to this debate about religious freedom (seemingly in bitter spite over our apparently secular country) and moral delinquency. The One Nation party has hijacked this campaign of insanity by instilling conservative fear over the apparent abolition and desecration of the Australian nuclear family. We already know, from the earliest television commercials, that it has never been about the idea of marriage equality, but a seemingly wretched and deliberate cash in on the arguments against Safe Schools, which is about nothing else other than the protection of children’s mental well being (if anyone in their right minds could force themselves to think that an organisation dedicated to the reduction of teen suicide and bullying, is somehow pushed by a political agenda, then it is clear who is the worse for wear).

The tireless work of school counsellors and teachers in pushing for such a program is something that should be greatly admired by the public, but thanks to the sad and bitter arguments of Pauline Hanson and Cory Benardi, Peter Dutton and Tony Abbot (I will not add Andrew Bolt to this list of shame, as he is possibly the saddest and least interesting of the strange political nutbags of this era). This putrid stain on Australian politics, and it’s disgusting embellishment of attacking and morally degrading some of the populations most vulnerable people, awaking a feeling amongst many of the community to have lost faith in the already morally seditious collection of bigots, racists and homophobes that fill the seats of the countries  highest seats of government.

In such a short amount of time, the language of bigotry has been ever so nicely excused in the name of free speech and respectful debate, especially in the name of such abhorrent debating skills on the side of the no argument, seemingly avoiding proper polemics and understanding. Notice the way that most of these points are argued, and i will be using a short video by liberal MP Andrew Green as the major point here:

“I’ll be voting no because I think that marriage, as it is currently defined as both a public and societal good, it is a special union between a man and a woman, it is a meeting of body and mind, it is sealed by consent through sexual intercourse and because the sexual union is at the heart of marriage, there is also procreating potential. Because of that fact, it is inherently ordered towards family life.”

Taking away the blatant disregard for LGBT parents to create a family of their own and for the quite bizarre notion that the only reason marriage even exists is because of the sexual act, we must attack this argument from the logical perspective:

  1. Notice the lazy terminology here i.e. that marriage is seemingly defined as a beneficial “public and societal good” not clarifying, of course, to what this actually means, nor why it provides such a service.He therefore neglects the failure of most marriages as forced shambles that pressure so many young people into marriage and of the societal pressures marriage places on so many young couples (homes that they cannot afford, jobs they are forced into, dreams thoroughly destroyed). So here, we have a very damning reason as to marriage exists from the lack of the MP’s explanation as to why marriage is such an important institution.
  2. And they call us gays sex obsessed! This is a man that claims that the only reason that marriage exists is the inevitable sexual union (because as we all know, no one has sex outside of marriage, regardless of sexuality). This is a few words far too problematic. As well as disregarding the idea that marriage is supposed to be a declaration of love in terms of it’s modern 21st century description, which, as far as the NO argument goes, has been thoroughly neglected as an argument.
  3. As before mentioned, he ignores the LGBT couples who are in fact, raising successful families and raising kids who are abandoned by their own families and are raised through adoption.

So..based on that side of the argument, where the meek and mild pretend that they make sense, we have no argument. Even ignoring the language of the argument itself, which is based on “I think” or “what if”, is not an argument for a secular society to have, unless there is something empirical (most politicians are not as ridiculous as Malcolm Roberts, nor as idiotic, but they just may be as incoherent and impotent)

Now let us look at a small sheet of paper that seems just as poorly worded and inane as the above statement:

“VOTE NO TO PEDO PARENTING

Protect the genetic wellbeing (!) of children who deserve better than legalised sick parents. Don’t trust the FAKE news, owned by the pedo left (getting a little repetitive aren’t we?) NBN Catholics (whatever that means) gAyBC (very clever) and SBS gay left. All biased, anti-Australian, pro-globalist propaganda. Tell your friends.” (I may add, that the capitalisations are all the writer’s, not mine.)

Among many points here, I feel that we need to apply a bit of a Hitchens Razor. With this we can determine that any statement that is placed with no evidence, can be easily dismissed without evidence. The above statement is short, though just as problematic. It is the opposite of “”meek and mild”. It is vicious, angry, brutal, almost non – intelligible. This was a print that has been shared on Facebook, placed into peoples letterboxes. Whether or not this may be so ridiculous as to be a joke, we may never know.

This plebiscite tell’s me many things about Australia. Like America it’s secular intentions and decree’s seem to be blissfully ignored by Parliament, and organisations such as the Coalition For Marriage (an organisation that is the epitome of the disregard of the term “due diligence” seeing as how their “flag” is the same colours of the bisexual flag. Hopefully they will find this as humorous as everyone has when they are eventually told this, but I suspect that they have already chosen to ignore it).

It seems to me that Australia is still kept hostage by the ignorant and the angry ideologies of institutions that claim for tolerance yet are still unable to accept it amongst anyone else. It has also revealed that there are in fact many religious nut balls in Parliament, which are still given the floor despite the childish and incomprehensible nonsense they sputter.

Right now I have sent my YES vote, and I do think that many Australians will vote the same as me, even for anyone who is not LGBT+. I still maintain hope that it will be overwhelmingly the yes vote, and a pathetic, small yet loud minority of fanatics are holding back any semblance of proper discussion. One day, I will marry the man I love, I hold hope in that fact, and at the end of this harsh and brutal “debate” that marriage will finally mean something positive to me.

MIFF REPORT FOR 2016

A Worthy MIFF Report
Posted on August 18, 2016 by wordlypress
It’s 12:00 at night, and I am so tired. I have just seen my 5th movie of the day, speeding backwards and forwards between the major cinemas of the festival: Kino, Forum, Comedy Theatre, Hoyts in Melbourne Central etc., interspersed with meet-ups with mates, drinking cheap Japanese beer, and discussing the festival with feverish excitement. It is the 65th Melbourne International Film Festival, and from 28th July – 14th August, I and many other die-hard cinephiles will be in movie heaven. I sit where I normally sit; the 14th seat of the 3rd row of the ACMI cinema, one of my favourite cinemas of the festival. It is dark, moody, dramatic and refreshingly modern with exceedingly comfortable seats. The screen is displayed in front of me and my mate, here to see the 40th anniversary restoration of the American independent horror movie PHANTASM. We cannot wait as the background music plays in smooth jazz and beat-bop saxophone solos. On the screen we see, in giant, colourful fonts: MIFF Melbourne International Film Festival. Then the screen dims, the title screen shows, the foreboding music booms through the cinema. And the few of us dedicated or stupid enough to see the movie when most cinema goers had long gone home? We would not rather be anywhere else. This is MIFF in a nutshell.
This is the third year in a row I have attended MIFF. It costs around $300 to get a members passport to see as many movies as you are humanly able to. Pricey? Yes, but sweet Jesus it is worth every penny spent. You see movies from all over the world: Iran, France, Slovenia, Austria, Italy, Venezuela, China, Japan, Brazil, Spain, Thailand, Indonesia, Russia, Nigeria, Ethiopia etc., and they come from almost every era of film history, from the recently produced, to undiscovered classics. To enter, all you need is one of the amazing volunteers to scan your tickets—and you’re in. On top of these amazing films, from the usual digital projections right up to the exceedingly rare 35mm film prints, you will also have the opportunity to see the opening premieres of some of the most exciting names in cinema at the moment as they come for the film’s opening, or for a Q&A session with the directors themselves! You also have access to bars, little member’s lounges to indulge in a bit of free food and drink for relaxation, while chatting away to your fellow film nerds. It’s a wonderful life.

PHANTASM: Remastered (2016;1979)
The fun of the movie-going experience really is the most exciting and nerve-racking part of the festival. For me, this year has being a rollercoaster of emotions and it still isn’t even finished! I have been blown away by films such as Ceila Rowlson-Hall’s Ma, a road trip film about the Virgin Mary told entirely through dance. Despite some walkouts and curses muttered under people’s breath, I was staggered at its extraordinary beauty, and when the director herself turned up for Q&A? I lost my mind. I walked up to her, nervous by her raw talent, and shook her hand and said ‘Thank you for such an amazing experience’ before I quickly ran away, along with my giddiness.
I have also shed tears over Studio Ghibli’s new film: The Red Turtle. This was an ecstatic experience of beautiful animation and the first film made under Studio Ghibli that was not created in Japan, instead, having animators from all over the world create a work of sheer beauty. Experimental films such as Khalil Blues, Evolution, My Life as a Courgette etc. I have also seen works that completely mystify me in their strangeness, such as the new Polish musical, The Lure, about two mermaids who become cabaret singers and how their sex lives and eating habits (closely intertwined) are obscuring their dreams of musical glory…
Where else but MIFF?

The Red Turtle (2016)
The biggest highlights for me were four films: Starless Dreams, Cosmos, Death in Sarajevo, and The Family. These films represented what was brilliant about MIFF and the quality of the stories that are shared at the event. Cosmos is a nonsensical, yet witty and wholly original magical journey into cinematic creation, which is sadly the last film of wondrous (and personal favourite) Polish filmmaker Andrzej Żuławski (who created the wonderfully demented Possession in 1981). We also had a fantastic exposé documentary on a female detention centre in Tehran with Starless Dreams, with some of the most heartbreaking scenes I have ever seen in recent cinema (one of the girls calls herself 651 after how many grams of crystal meth she had being caught carrying). Death in Sarajevo is a loose adaptation of Hotel Europa, which was a provoking and contagiously arresting piece on Blakan region politics and the resulting violence. The Family, however is one of Australia’s biggest and most disturbing contribution to the festival, discussing the bizarre family cult that emerged in Melbourne during the 60s and 70s, featuring LSD injections, indoctrination, and child abuse. It is one of the most disturbing documentaries about one of the darkest times of recent Melbourne history.
I am always of the strong opinion that if anyone believes or thinks that cinema itself is dead, mutilated or slowly becoming extinct, they are very, very mislead. Thanks to MIFF (which is, as of now, the SECOND largest film festival in the world, next to Cannes Film Festival in France), everyone in Victoria is but a stone’s throw away from some of the most enlightening, funny, dark, tragic and beautiful stories that world cinema has to offer.
And now as the festival is wrapping up, I can say that I have had no sleep, watched dozens and dozens of films, interacted with the lovely volunteers of MIFF, and run across the entirety of Melbourne for some of the most magical and luminous stories modern cinema has to offer. I cannot wait to do this all over again next year.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year for us cinema nerds.
Vivre la Cinéma!
Words by W.D Farnsworth.