MUFF X Winners

August 31, 2009

The 10th Melbourne Underground Film Festival came to a close last night with an awards ceremony and after-party packed to the rafters with local and international filmmakers and screen representatives.

The prestigious award for Best Australian Film was a tie, the honour being shared by ‘Into the Shadows’, Andrew Scarano and Phil Hignett’s opening night documentary on the state of the Australian film industry, and ‘Eraser Children’, Nathan Christoffel’s astonishing feature debut which is set in a futuristic dystopia. ‘Eraser Children’ also received an award for Best Supporting Male Actor (Shane Nagle).

Marc Gracie’s ‘The Tumbler’, which closed MUFF X, picked up a series of awards for Best Director, Runner-up Best Australian Film, Best Cinematography and Best Lead Male Actor (Gary Sweet).

Dominic Deacon’s ‘Bad Habits’ – the Nunsploitation feature debut from Melbourne production company Dank Films – was awarded Best Screenplay as well as Best Lead Female Actor (Sandra Casa).

The award for Best Guerilla Film (previously won by James Wan of ‘Saw’) went to Dave de Vries’ ‘Carmilla Hyde’, a full length Jekyll and Hyde feature made on a $15,000 budget which sold out its high-profile MUFF X premiere last week.

MUFF X’s diverse selection of shorts also received attention, with the top award for Best Short being tied between Marina Lutz’s ‘The Marina Experiment’ – a confronting autobiographical documentary about child abuse, and Jennifer Lyon Bell’s ‘Matinee’, which was controversially banned from screening by the OFLC last week.

International films also garnered praise at this year’s awards; Dan Schneidkraut’s disturbing ‘Seeking Wellness’ took out the Special Jury Prize, while Alex Ross Perry’s ‘Impolex’, a surreal WWII picture shot on 16mm, received the award for Best International Film. The award for Best Foreign Director went to Zach Clark for his cult comedy ‘Modern Love is Automatic’.

Here is the full list of winners:
Lifetime Achievement – Frank Howson & John La Monde

Best Australian Film – ‘Into the Shadows’ & ‘Eraser Children’
Runner Up Best Australian Film – ‘The Tumbler’
Best Australian Director – Marc Gracie (The Tumbler)
Best Australian Male Actor – Gary Sweet (The Tumbler)
Best Australian Female Actor – Sandra Casa (Bad Habits) & Kristen Condon (The Beautiful & Damned)
Best Supporting Male Actor – Shane Nagle (Eraser Children)
Best Supporting Female Actor – Georgii Speakman (Carmilla Hyde)

Special Jury Prize – ‘Seeking Wellness – Suffering in Four Movements’
Special Jury Prize (Short) – ‘Herman: Am I Proud’
Best Guerrilla Film – ‘Carmilla Hyde’

MUFF Producers award – Prey –  Robert Galinsky & Elizabeth Howatt-Jackman
Best Documentary – ‘The Nigel Diaries’ & ‘Burn City’
Best Cinematography – Justin Brickle (The Tumbler)
Best Screenplay – Jack Ketchum (Offspring) & Dominic Deacon (Bad Habits)
Best Short – ‘The Marina Experiment’ & ‘Matinee’
Runner Up Best Short – ‘Higher Plane’

Best Foreign Film – ‘Impolex’
Best Foreign Director – Zach Clark (Modern Love Is Automatic)
Best Foreign Male Actor – Riley O’Brien (Impolex)
Best Foreign Female Actor – Melodie Sisk (Modern Love Is Automatic)

eraserchildren 1

A Bad Seed at MUFF

August 28, 2009

Mick Harvey with Marina Lutz from The Marina Experiment and I at MUFF this week.


Here is a link to Jake Wilson’s review of MUFF. See here.

Its his usual part hostile approach to it. But, its better than Adrian Martin’s purely hostile approach, I suppose…

He says our Open Letter doesn’t hold water but can’t really say why. His objections are clearly dealt with in the document itself. He also hardly gives us credit for being one of the few people who has the guts to say anything about the state of the OZ film industry. He’s too busy busy sipping latte’s with the likes of Michelle Carey, dullard, MIFF programmer and Senses of Cinema cultural gate keeper.

Here is my Facebook post on the matter currently stirring up debate. Will post some choice responses later…

“Jake Wilson being a semi cunt (again) as he continues in his eternal quest to be Adrian Martin. But, at least he covers the festival and he did program a MUFF section in the past, so he can’t be all bad! Haha. He also attempted to engage with th e Open Letter this year, which was nice, though he dismissed it. Last year’s Manifesto on Ontological cinema had him bamboozled… as he knows zero of Heidegger. Funny that!”




Banned film at MUFF!

August 21, 2009

Yesterday, the Melbourne Underground Film Festival received knowledge that the OFLC has placed a ban upon the screening of Jennifer Lyon Bell’s ‘Matinee’ as part of the ‘Mini Muff’ shorts session. MUFF wishes to oppose this decision on two grounds.

Firstly, the decision negates the artistic merits of the film. While graphically sexual, ‘Matinee’ is a picture which embodies many of the qualities which should be sought after in high quality artistic filmmaking. The lead performances are strong and memorable, and the direction and production design work twofold, both ensuring a subtle, entirely naturalistic feel, and a highly stylized, enigmatic and atmospheric world, the likes of which is often attempted in independent cinema but rarely so deftly achieved.

Secondly, and most importantly, MUFF opposes the OFLC’s decision on the grounds that it represents a hypocritical and troubling suppression of transgressive female-centric sexuality on film. The modus operandi of Blue Artichoke Films, Bell’s production company, is to create films which portray realistic sexual intimacy, depict empowered female characters, possess artistic merit and strong narratives, and do not fall back upon the damaging and often dangerous stereotypes of female sexuality that the Western media is accustomed to. In other words, Bell is looking to produce films about sexuality which women can enjoy, free of masculine control.

It is outrageous that the OFLC has sought fit to ban ‘Matinee’ for the sole reason that it depicts actual sex. The sex depicted in the film, while real, is set within a relationship based on love and mutual desire. What we see in ‘Matinee’ is two consenting adults (characters, not porn clichés, with a deep and complex established relationship) making love. That is all. Nowhere in this film do we see any violence, sexual abuse, cruelty or malice; we merely see the intimacy which occurs between loving partners every day in real life. The fact that this depiction is considered to be too disturbing for an adult audience, and yet films which depict shocking and graphic violence and/or sexual abuse (yes, simulated, but made to look and feel real) are passed by the OFLC, is unacceptable.

Lars Von Trier’s ‘Antichrist’ was recently passed by the OFLC for the Melbourne International Film Festival. This film depicts extremely high levels of sexual violence and genital mutilation, and encourages a phallocentric vision in its audience that touches on the idea that women are inherently evil. ‘Matinee’ depicts actual sex between two adults in a loving and consenting partnership, and significantly it focuses on the importance of women’s pleasure in sexual intimacy, and presents a remarkably strong female lead. Passing ‘Antichrist’ but banning ‘Matinee’ reveals a tendency in the OFLC to suppress films which strengthen female sexuality on screen and to allow films which encourage view that female sexuality is damaged, fractured or violent.

There have been cases in the recent past wherein films depicting graphic actual sex within realistic, emotionally-toned and non-violent settings have been granted passage by the OFLC (MUFF points to ‘Shortbus’ as one example), and MUFF asks only that the same considerations are granted to Bell’s ‘Matinee’, as not repealing their decision will brand the OFLC hypocritical, suppressive, and worryingly anti-women.

A Letter from the Filmmaker Jennifer Lyon Bell:

To the OFLC:

I’m disappointed and puzzled by your decision not to allow my film Matinée to screen at this year’s Melbourne Underground Film Festival.

The sexual relationship portrayed by the characters Mariah and Daniel in Matinée is not only a consensual, emotional and nuanced relationship, but their sex plays an important role in the story of the film.  The story is not tacked on to the sex; rather, the story has everything to do with the way the characters continue to communicate nonverbally throughout the entire sex scene. This nonverbal sexual communication is, at least according to the feedback on the film so far, an important part of why Matinée is seen by festival programmers as different from most of the other films they’ve seen this year.

I’d also like to point out that certain elements of the sex in Matinée —such as the inclusion of safer-sex techniques made crucial to the storyline —create a more responsible depiction of sex than one frequently sees in either mainstream or art films, in which characters usually throw sexual caution to the wind under the guise of romance.

I hope this letter addresses whatever concerns you may have had about my film, but of course if you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me through the Festival.

With respectful regards

Jennifer Lyon Bell

Director, “Matinée”

Blue Artichoke Films


That’s all for now…

As you can tell MUFF starts tomorrow!

The Beat Cover

August 21, 2009

For those who missed it or who are overseas.

cover 1179.indd

Recent MUFF Press Release

August 20, 2009


The Melbourne Underground Film Festival (MUFF) is back to celebrate MUFF X – the festival’s prestigious tenth year of championing alternative cinema in Melbourne. MUFF is thrilled to announce its highly anticipated 2009 lineup and full schedule of events.

MUFF X will run from Saturday August 22nd until Sunday August 30th. This year’s venues will be Noise, Loop, Glitch, and the Embassy (the old QBH).

Opening night at the newly converted Embassy will deliver Into the Shadows – a fascinating and important documentary about the state of this country’s film industry and the challenges faced by Australian independent cinema throughout the past century. It features interviews by Rolf De Heer (The Tracker), George Miller (Mad Max), Andrew Denton, and many more film
practitioners and representatives.

The 2009 festival programmers are proud to present a selection of exciting and provocative pictures from interstate, overseas, and many from the festival’s home town of Melbourne. MUFF may be the only chance Melbourne audiences will have to see many of these films.

Local highlights include Sleeper – a thriller starring wrestler Scott ‘Raven’ Levy as a mute serial killer with an aversion to daylight, Eraser Children, an ambitious and absorbing sci-fi flick set in a futuristic dystopia, and Carmilla Hyde, a darkly seductive twist on the traditional Jekyll & Hyde story. International highlights include Impolex, the bizarre story of a WWII soldier in search of undetonated German missiles, and Modern Love is Automatic, a comedy about an apathetic nurse who moonlights as a dominatrix.

MUFF X will also feature a variety of special events including a focus on legendary 1950s and 60s horror director William Castle, a world-first retrospective on 1980s cult hero/demon Wings Hauser, and special screenings of the early films of Leni Riefenstahl, German leading lady of the 1920s who went on to direct the infamous propaganda piece Triumph of the Will for Adolf Hitler.

Added to this lineup is the return of Mini Muff, one of MUFF’s most popular yearly events, wherein the festival showcases the best short films from Australia and from overseas. Over 50 short films have been selected for the 2009 lineup, including local thriller Out,
starring Rob Rabiah (Chopper, Underbelly), and The Marina Experiment – a confronting autobiographical film from New York featuring original music by Mick Harvey of the Bad Seeds.

These are but a few of the treats MUFF X has in store for Melbourne audiences this August. The complete program is now available in venues and stores across the city.


Here is an article sent to me by Kent Morris of the band The Prostitutes. The Prostitutes were am electronic industrial band from Melbourne in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Here is an interview I did with them when I was editor of Beat magazine back in 1990 and 1991.

Prost Beat Article

If you don’t know this comedian you should. He did that wacky show, Look Around You and the more recent Peter Serafinowicz Show.

Check out episode six of his new show (in three parts) for a taste.

An ad we ran in Beat…


And (just some of…) the debate at Facebook…

Liam Firmager
Liam Firmager

you may as well ban every film from every festival from every nation if you’re going to take issue with the policies of their government.
It defeats the purpose of free speech and articulating different apolitical viewpoints by banning or blacklisting individuals work or festivals themselves simply because their respective governments may or may not have partially financed it. Should Leni Reifenstal’s work be blacklisted because the Third Reich financed her work?Should AFI backed films be blacklisted by international festivals because of our governments stand on various issues?The focus should be on the film itself. I can’t agree with you on this one Richard…but I defend your right to say it.

Richard Wolstencroft

No Liam. I am not trying to ban anything, of course. I am trying to say “No” to funding from Governments like Israel, Iran and China for film festivals, that is all. I support playing films from all countries including Israel or wherever. Its a question of financial support. MIFF should have just offered to pay the 2 to 5 grand? You can get away with funding by states committing current human rights abuses, I suppose. But, as a rule I’m against it according to my own ethics. If called on it, like MIFF was by Loach, why not drop the financial support? That’s the point…Never drop a film, no matter what someone says. I supported the Chinese critical doco 10 Conditions of Love on the Xinjiang district. That was a good MIFF call. The Israel funding is not…

Liam Firmager
Liam Firmager

I respect your personal opinion..I just don’t think you should align yourself to someone like Loach who is an agenda driven hate-filled champagne socialist who is very a la carte in his criticisms of ‘human rights abusers’. I believe it’s all about the ART not the artist or the origins of funding to allow that art to flourish. It’s my opinion festivals should be apolitical…springboards for ideas and fresh viewpoints, and not the arbiters of cultural dialogue. But the saying goes, it’s your ball.. 🙂

Dave de Vries
Dave de Vries

Hi Liam. Mate you sem to be going off on a tangent. It might be worth re-reading Richard’s ad. As I read it, all Richard is saying is that MUFF doesn’t accept sponsorship from states that commit human rites abuses. Seems like a reasonable position to me.
Richard Wolstencroft
Richard WolstencroftI agree they should be apolitical in the funding department and not receive funds from Governments like Israel, China, etc… hence my point. Your point is they should be politicized by accepting the funding and hence give Loach something to protest…screw your head on, Doofus….
Liam Firmager
Im not going off on a tangent..simply drawing Loach’s position into the debate as it was his protest which triggered it.
I don’t particularly care where the funding comes from..festivals should be APOLITICAL in their subject matter and not arbiters of cultural dialogue which Loach is demanding MIFF become.
Dave de Vries
Dave de Vries

Are you saying it’s okay to accept sponsorship from anyone?
Oh , and yes… covert to Judasim.
Liam Firmager
Liam Firmager

Why is it ‘obvious’ ? I think you either need to say no to ALL state sponsored funding ( an admirable posture)….or you allow it all without prejudice. Drawing distinctions based on your personal perception of ‘human rights abuse’ ( and lets be honest…it’s an opinion and not a fact) means you are politicizing the issue and taking the role as an arbiter.
Some accuse Australia of human rights abuses against our indigenous population and also refugees…does that justify the blacklisting of AFI funded projects?
I just don’t think it’s as black and white as your posture suggests . Your tone suggests you are very much inclined to accept Israel as state sponsored human rights abuser.
I ask you again…if the film in question was funded( or semi-funded) by the USA, Australia, Colombia, Nepal…etc.etc…would you maintain the same posture? A Hypothetical..but a valid one.
Ronnit Sternfein
Ronnit Sternfein

You should convert….you sound like you need a good circumcision ;-p
Richard Wolstencroft

Its not film funding for movies Liam, its Festival funding. A big difference. I don’t care who funded movies, so Leni and the Nazis are tres cool. A festival Director can and should make these decisions as to who funds a festival, based on a case by case basis, and the current world situation. Its part of their job to politicize these issues when conflicts get out of hand (ala Israel and the recent Gaza incursion and the use of phosphorus weapons, etc.) and a stand of solidarity sometimes needs to be made (ala Loach). I think Moore called it wrong, and I stated why… end of story. MUFF likes to criticize MIFF, as we have in the past on many, many different issues. I appreciate your position, but just think you are wrong. Yes, crew, I’d like to convert, how do I go about it? Shalom!

Richard Wolstencroft
Richard Wolstencroft

Already am Ronnit…yes u heard it here first… I’m secretly Jewish . Shh don’t tell anyone…
Liam Firmager
Liam Firmager

So what you are stating is the festival director bases his/her funding criteria acceptance on personal political opinion. Which is NO different to Moore’s current posture.
I can’t see what the problem is as you’re both excercising your rights as festival directors to accept funding based on individual opinion of issues. And in the mean time…film makers are used as political pawns.. this is what sits uncomfortable with me. Now if you were taking a swipe at Miff for their incestuous unimaginative programming then I’d be with you 110% 🙂 I don’t believe I’m wrong…I’m simply seeking clarification.
Ronnit Sternfein
Ronnit Sternfein

pffffft….ill believe it when i see it 😉
Richard Wolstencroft
Richard Wolstencroft

I do support Israel in general and just find some actions and the current Israeli direction a bit over the top…i.e recent Gaza incursion.
Jacinta Palmer
Jacinta Palmer

Rich I’m afraid I’m edging towards Liam’s side of the debate.

It seems what you’re essentially saying is that a festival director should only accept funding from countries which that festival director personally believes are not guilty of human rights abuses. It’s a completely subjective issue based on personal opinion, and as Liam said, one could easily view our country as being guilty of human rights abuses and would thus be obliged to refuse any Oz government funding. You’ve applied for Oz funding in the past, haven’t you?

Jacinta Palmer
Jacinta Palmer

Having said that, I don’t agree with MIFF’s decision to accept Israeli money. Aside from the human rights abuse issue, accepting money from an outside government raises questionable issues regarding the involvement and/or control this funding gives to that outside government over the running or programming of the festival.

All art is political, absolutely, but it doesn’t mean there are lines that perhaps shouldn’t be crossed.

Dave de Vries
Dave de Vries

You’re right, Jacinta. It’s completely subjective. But then again, all values of principle are. Richard is taking ownership of his beliefs about the human rights records of China and Israel, and acting accordingly. I see no problem with that. And if he chooses to add others to that list down the line, that sits fine with me too. As we judge is how we are judged. But of itself, there’s nothing wrong with acting on subjective personal opinion. As artists, that’s what we do.
Richard Wolstencroft

Thank you Dave, I share your above sentiments. Yes, it is just about getting Israeli financial support for a foreign Film Festival. Israel should obviously fund their own film festivals, and good luck to them. I just feel this way. I run MUFF, we debate MIFF, so I commented. Your welcome to disagree. I do things like this to spark exactly the kind of debate you see here. I find it healthy. I’m not saying you have to agree with me. Disagreement can breed healthy results as long as a mutual respect is shown. But on a lighter note, if there is any Mossad agents out there reading this, a sufficiently generous bribe or an all expenses paid trip to the Holy lands, could well change my mind…hehe again…

Well, I’m ticked off with SUFF (Sydney Underground Film Festival) director Stefan Popescu at present… again!

More, later on all this later…if I can be bothered relating it.

It seems some other people are ticked off as well. Here are two videos from some unknown filmmakers ( ….not me, really!), sending up the two SUFF directors, that someone pointed out to me at You Tube.

The Stefan one, is actually a little like the real person, dare I say it!