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DIGISPAA Film Finalists Announced

  • Written by Rob Manser
  • Category: Film

The Screen Producers Association of Australia (SPAA) is proud to announce the finalists for the 2009 DigiSPAA Feature Film Competition sponsored by Movie Network Channels:

  • Braille, produced by Luke Graham (Newtown, NSW)
  • Family Demons, produced by Sue Brown (Brompton, SA)
  • Girl Clock, produced and directed by Jennifer Ussi (Woolloongabba, QLD)
  • Missing Water, produced and directed by Khoa Do (Drummoyne, NSW)

“This year’s competition received 20 privately financed micro budget feature films which, given the difficult economic conditions experienced over the last year, is a credit to the resilience of up-coming film producers from Australia and New Zealand” says Antony I. Ginnane, SPAA president and co-founder of DigiSPAA.

"The future of the feature film industry in Australia will remain secure as long as this level of drive, enthusiasm and entrepreneurial talent continues to emerge" Ginnane adds.

“I was extremely impressed with the quality, diversity and the amazing talent from the 2009 DigiSPAA entrants. Each one of the finalists represents a distinct genre, romantic comedy, horror thriller, crime and serious drama. It is gratifying to see filmmakers producing such good work outside of the normal funding process,” says Daniel Scharf, DigiSPAA Co-ordinator and judge.

Braille, produced by Luke Graham and directed by Matthew Chuang, is essentially a heist film, about three young thieves who have a chance encounter with an elderly blind thief who tells them of a blood diamond he hid in his prison cell.  Based loosely on the French New Wave film Le Cercle Rouge, Braille embodies themes of honour, loyalty and tragedy.

Produced by Sue Brown and directed by Ursula Dabrowsky, Family Demons, is a psychological horror film about an abused teenage girl who murders her alcoholic mother and thereafter is haunted by her mother’s vengeful spirit.

Family Demons had its World Premiere at ‘A Night of Horror International Film Festival’ in Sydney in April 2009, and has also previewed at the ‘Bram Stoker International Film Festival’ in UK in October 2009.

Girl Clock, produced and directed by Jennifer Ussi, is a heart-warming, coming-of-(middle)age comedy, which follows the journey of three women in their 40’s who take on the might of Mother Nature with hilarious results.  A sneak preview of the film screened at the Dungog Film Festival in May 2009, receiving an overwhelming response. A preview will screen at the Gold Coast Film Fantastic Festival in November 2009 and as part of the La Femme Festival in Los Angeles in October 2009.

Missing Water, produced and directed by Khoa Do, follows the journey of four refugees fleeing Vietnam in 1980.  Both innovative and daring, Missing Water is the first feature film made in Australia with an entire cast of Vietnamese-Australians. The film’s release in 2010 is timely, coinciding with the 35th anniversary of the arrival of the first Vietnamese refugees in Australia.

The finalists will be screened at this year’s SPAA Fringe conference on 16 and 17 October at Foxtel Television Centre, North Ryde, and judged by an expert industry panel including Antony I. Ginnane, President of SPAA and IFM World Releasing Inc.; Geoff Brown, Executive Director SPAA; Daniel Scharf, Producer of Geoffrey Wright's AFI Award-winning Romper Stomper; Colleen Meldrum, Program Director, Movie Network Channels and Stacey Edmonds, Producer/Director of I Know How Many Runs You Scored Last Summer.

The Grand Prize winner will be announced at the annual SPAA Conference on 20 November. The winner receives the 2009 SPAARTAN Award and $15,000 cash, $20,000 worth of post-production, a guaranteed screening of their film on the Movie Extra channel, plus a return airfare and free registration to the prestigious CineMart International Film Festival Rotterdam.

DigiSPAA is a creative project of the Screen Producers Association of Australia (SPAA) an industry body that represents Australian independent film and television producers on all issues affecting the business and creative aspects of screen production.

I Really Hate My Job

  • Written by Lisa McMahon
  • Category: Film
Have you ever been stuck in a rut watching your dreams evaporate? 

Trudged through a menial job far too long, telling yourself your luck is going to turn? 

I Really Hate My Job is Australia screen writer Jennifer Higgie’s comic tale of five women working in the claustrophobic confines of a Soho basement cafe. Inside this wasteland for creativity, frustrations are vented, wine aided ideologies extolled and petty arguments are played out as each person tries to console themselves that working here in “this place” is a justifiable means to their artistic ends. 
What they do achieve is a sense of female camaraderie and a sounding board for their crazy dreams and neurotic philosophies.

There is no argument that this is a 100% chick flick, with an all female international ensemble cast. Shirley Henderson from Trainspotting is brilliant as an on the edge of neurosis kitchen hand and unpublished author tormented by a communist lovelorn dishwasher. Sarcastic waitress and aspiring actress Abi, played by Neve Campbell, is facing a black hole of financial and career gloom. Tonight she just really doesn’t care anymore, much to the chagrin of the passive/aggressive café manger Madonna (Anna Maxwell Martin of BBC’s Bleak House). 

Ever upbeat art student Suzie (Romanian actress Alexandra Maria Lara) has great comic timing and drifts through her shift spending more time offering word of wisdom than table service. She is the optimistic glue for this fractured group of women. 

For a low budget film, the acting and writing are stand outs with the complex characters played out at a pace that keeps you involved. If you like films that are dialog based and give you the experience of seeing a play, then I Really Hate My Job is a great pick. 

Dendy Newtown from July 2.

Star Trek “Beginning”

  • Written by Mark Dickson
  • Category: Film

I don’t know how I can wait until May 7th – Having watched this stunning film once; I wanted to watch the whole thing all over again immediately!

The movie begins the epic Star Trek tale again, from before the story started, but from after the story left off.

 **warning: some storyline follows in the next 4 paragraphs in Italics**

We start with James Tiberius Kirk’s birth amongst disaster, where his father George Kirk (Melbourne actor Chris Hemsworth (Home and Away)) gallantly fought to save the crew in face of impossible odds from a gigantic rogue Romulan ship from the future captained by a vengeful Nero (Eric Bana).

(Note there is a marked similarity between Chris Hemsworth and Chris Pine, enhanced by the excellent make up of course - check Spock's ears later - flawless!)

We then dive forward into his childhood as an Iowa farm boy (with Jimmy Bennett playing Kirk) & quickly into his adulthood where James, now 25 & played by the very easy on the eye Chris Pine, gets into a fight after flirting with Uhura (Zoe Saldana) in a bar & is rescued by the current Enterprise captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood).

James is brilliant, but troubled & directionless but manages to end up at star fleet academy – meeting most of the key characters we all know in the process, and even shagging someone …revealing that the new Kirk is more than a match for William Shatner in the body stakes, and revealing a lot more than the previous Kirks did!

The tension between James and & the young Spock (Zachary Quinto) starts in earnest here, but the story doesn’t slow down with the characterisation at this stage as an emergency calls all able bodied star fleet to arms, including the cadets…

Then there are: Fights, crashes, arguments, Emotions, Ice planets, Rabid monsters, Meetings, escapes, Romulans, Disasters, Weapons, torpedoes, Bangs, Flashes,..

…but you can get all that from the trailers so I don’t know why you are trying to find spoilers here!

We go on a journey of discovery with the crew, as they all have to grow up very quickly & rely on each other. All the characters pay homage to the originals – with occasional hints at their forebear’s affectations or signature phrases – but never really falling into mimicry.
Chris especially manages to show the arrogance and the humanity in Kirk that we loved from William Shatner (Apparently he got the nod from William in a letter when he got the part)

The various other elements combine to make it the epic we hoped for – from the sound track highs and lows, to the cinematography – even the subtle contrast between the blood on James’ face and the neon lights behind him in the bar stick out (Can see this in trailer 3). The makeup accuracy is a relief after being distracted by badly applied sideburns in other movies, and the costumes are in keeping with the originals but less bad 70's polyester - and better shaped bodies under them to boot.

Influence of other movies in the sci fi genre are apparent , most obiously Star Wars;  with grand scenes similar to Star Wars IV and the Hoth ice planet in Empire Strikes back, even the Mos Eisley Cantina gets a nod. Indeed Star Trek has all the hallmarks of the ”Beginning” of a strong and successful new voyage similar to Star Wars but “where no one has gone before".   If the story in other movie series can be looped back on itself as successfully as this has I would say this may be the future of sequels to come for many movies…and if they have a director as good as JJ Abrams a the helm it bodes well for the future of the big screen.

Development of the film began in 2005 when Paramount Pictures contacted Abrams, Orci and Kurtzman for ideas to revive the franchise. They wanted to be faithful to the long history of Star Trek, take elements from the novels and modernise the production. Filming started in November 2007 & finished about a year ago – Release date is 7th May,  


Full credits at:

 Great Chris Pine fan site "The Chris Pine Network" :

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

  • Written by Mark Dickson
  • Category: Film

Wolverine is Hugh Jackman’s second foray into mainstream film production and with a cinema full of celebrity movie buffs (Margaret and David were in the front row!) It felt like everyone was interested in the result.  

The movie traces Wolverine’s life from the childhood awakening of his powers in the 1850’s & his life from war to war alongside his brother Creed (Sabertooth, played by US born Liev Schreiber). The relationship becomes more uneasy as Creed’s blood lust becomes more obvious. This finally causes Logan to split from an elite squad of Mutants recruited by the military – moving to a quieter life in the Canadian Rockies with his girlfriend played by Lynn Collins.

Skipping part of the story as it would give too much away… Wolverine agrees to be injected with Adamantium to gain revenge … and through several plot twists ends up at a laboratory where mutants are being used – ending up with more spectacular fighting & introduction briefly towards the end of a key character from the X-men movies.  

We see few other of the future X men characters, most just briefly as children; apart from Wolverine, Sabretooth and Cyclops (played by NIDA graduate & Sydney born Tim Pocock – Previously more familiar as a Tenor in The Australian Opera). I suspect they are holding back on these characters for future “X Men Origins”.

There are plenty of new characters though, including Bolt, with power over electricity (pardon the pun!) played by Dominic Monaghan (Merry from LOTR); Gambit (Taylor Kitsch) with control of playing cards and some crazy trick with a stick; and Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) with a nifty flick of the sword wrist (and who turns up later as XI, but played by Scott Adkins).

A criticism is lack of clarity in just some of the landscape shots (a waterfall fly by looks distinctly fuzzy), but this is not the case in the action shots, maybe this is just a grading issue with one part.  The action sequences however are excellent,  & some details are better than the original X men films such as Wolverine’s blades & the way they emerge from his hands. How this occurs is shown & also the original form they took before Adamantium merged with his skeleton.

We also of course get just as much detail of Hugh’s muscular body that he has worked so hard to harden up! According to interviews he was eating massive amounts from before dawn (mostly chicken apparently); as well as working out 6 days a week, listening to hard rock music and yelling like wolverine while doing it. I really have to speak to my trainer…. I knew I was doing something wrong!

Oddly, again there is a nod to Star Wars (as there was in Star Trek) – the goading of Luke by The Emperor in Return of the Jedi immediately came to mind during one piece of dialogue.

Overall this is a solid start to a franchise and worth going to see, even if just for the action sequences. The 100+ years of war sequences are sped through during credits & What thereafter starts slowly builds to an exciting last half, perhaps dulled a little as we know that the two main leads appear in the chronologically later X men movies, although their interactions are more important than that one issue. The formation of Wolverine’s character is very well handled by Hugh and bodes well for future films.

By the way, don’t stand up as soon as the credits start…. and stay to the end of them – there are two last bits that you’d miss if you weren’t a movie reviewer; and finally the best line of the movie…..“Ooh, Shiny!”

Release date in Australia 30th April 2009 – limited release on 28th.
Directed by Gavin Hood (previous work: Rendition in 2007)      

Full cast and credits: