Actor David Wenham heads behind the camera for the first time with this Linklater-esque flick about two strangers bumping into each other in Sydney. Wenham chooses to show Sydney through the different folks who make the tourist destination such a unique place. Whether it’s the watch repairman (Ferdinand Hoang), or the exuberant sex shop owners, or the homeless guy, or the many other faces that line the streets of Sydney, there’s a warm respect and admiration for the folks that live on our periphery as we go about our day to day lives. Hopefully it’s not long before Wenham is behind the camera.
Director: Ben Lawrence
The first of a huge bundle of documentaries on this list, Ghosthunter is not an easy watch. Director Ben Lawrence follows Jason King, a part-time ghosthunter who helps those in need of dealing with any apparitions that may be lingering around their homes. Jason outwardly appears as a gentle guy, someone who loves what he does and cares about the people he’s helping. But, he’s also got some ghosts of his own that need exploring – namely, those left over from the relationship he has with his parents. Lawrence teases out a difficult story from King, while at the same time he forces viewers to question what the relationship is between a documentary director and their subject. Unsettling,and yet extremely moving.
Directors: Lachlan Mcleod, David Elliot-Jones & Louid Dai
And now for something completely different. The world of Japan is one of eccentricity – men dressed as women singing hard core death metal, or women dressed up as schoolgirls, singing pop songs in front of a handful of people, or, as is the case with ordinary guy Dave, a regular dude dressed up as onigiri. Through the eyes of Dave’s friends who try and embark on a social experiment to see if they can make their basic pal‘big in Japan’, the world of celebrity in Japan is explored. At times is outright hilarious, and then, at other times, it’s simply heartbreaking. While maybe not as explorative of the culture of celebrity as it initially aims to be, Big in Japan is still a unique and bizarre world to step into.
27. The Pretend One
Director: Tony Prescott
Director Tony Prescott brings whimsy to the farmyard, with this story of Charlie (Geraldine Hakewill) and her imaginary friend, Hugo (Michael Whalley). Single dad Roger (the ever reliable David Field) has had to raise Charlie as best as he could, with him seeking out help from a hypnotherapist to help with Charlie’s imaginary friend problem – a problem that lingers long into adulthood. While the concept slightly falls apart near the end, the core performances from Hakewill and Whalley are charming. Whalley’s Hugo initially appears grating, but his humanity starts to shine as the film progresses.
Director: Stevie Cruz-Martin
Written and starring AACTA Award nominee Daniel Monks, Pulse is a film of two minds. It grapples with the complexities of being a high school kid growing up disabled, as well as the difficulties of also being a gay highschool kid. Monks performance is superb, delivering one of the best Australian performances of the year. While Pulse struggles to grapple with the transgender subtext of its body swapping concept (to live an able bodied life, as well as to make a move on his best friend, Olly embarks on an experimental body swapping transplant that allows him to move into the body of a woman), it does so by exploring the reality of being gay and disabled. Daniel Monks is a genuine talent, and Pulse shows that he’s someone that needs to be paid attention to.
25. I Used to Be Normal: A Boyband Fangirl Story
Director: Jessica Leski
There’s a unique charm to this documentary about boy bands. The charm being simple,unfettered joy. It’s infectious. It’s deceptively simple, yet, you can’t help but leave I Used to Be Normal walking on air. This documentary made me remember the pure joy of being a fan of the Spice Girls (Baby Spice was number one then, but I’ve grown to greatly appreciate Ginger as the years have gone by, and I stand by the fact that nobody, and I really mean nobody, liked Posh Spice, and if they say they do then they are lying). The comfort in knowing all the lyrics to a band, in being quietly (or, in the case of this documentary, very loudly) obsessed with every member of the band. There’s so much to love here, and so much to applaud with the purely innocent world of women loving boy bands. Gosh, it just makes your heart beam with warmth and you can’t help but smile. Genuinely lovely stuff.
Aussie comedies worked hard in 2018. After the downright essential Three Summers in 2017, there was a fair challenge for the films that were coming through in 2018 that they simply might not make the scratch. Well, this triple whammy of The Merger, Book Week and Swinging Safari managed to do exactly that. One brought the social awareness of refugees to the football field, another brought the pitch black comedy about the doomed shenanigans of a failed author and his students, and the other brought the flammable polyester of the seventies to the beach and blew it all up. All three showcase Australia with charm and affection, and all three have a wealth of comedy gold.
Following on the steps of one of the best Aussie films of 2017, Meal Tickets, producer Brooke Silcox doesn’t stop for a moment with this killer doco about heavy metal in Afghanistan. Journo turned director Travis Beard brings a lived in awareness of Afghanistan to this story about District Unknown, the first Afghani heavy metal band. All the societal issues that come with tearing down a system that has kept culture out for years is dragged over the guitar strings, left to wail in the auditoriums that provide an ounce of freedom. Raucous, exciting, and terrifying, RocKabul is a brilliant doco that demands your attention – just as the work of Brooke Silcox demands your attention.
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