DAO’s coverage of the Oska Bright Film Festival 2015 continues with Joe Turnbull’s assessment of the Afternoon Session of Day Two.
The first session kicked off with a selection of four ‘Stories from around the world,’ reflecting the increasingly international outlook of the Festival.
Goran, a film by Goran Gostojic and Roberto Santaguida is a deeply personal portrait of the former’s hopes and fears. Shots of streets at night, presumably of Gostojic’s local area of Novi Sad, Serbia have a moody, foreboding almost menacing quality, fuelled by the atmospheric music. Gostojic’s highs are evidently easier to verbalise than his lows; friends, family and perhaps most importantly, his local football team and the atmosphere on match day.
The film takes the format of a conversation between Gostojic and Santaguida, though the relationship is not immediately clear. Are they pen pals? Is Santaguida, who is asking all the questions, assuming the role of a counsellor? Or are they just collaborators? This ambiguity has a pleasing quality, especially as it is resolved at the finale.
Bastion by Ray Jacobs, Jonathan Tritton and James Doolan had the sizeable crowd in fits of laughter almost throughout. Did you hear about the bald man who went into a barbers? Not a joke setup, but the plot of the film. However, it’s the punch-line that keeps on giving. The barber doesn’t know how to react at first when asked to get rid of the non-existent fringe, but humours his bald client.
Soon, the barber joins in, asking if he should get rid of the ponytail as well. We all engage in a bit of ‘social pretending’ from time to time; little lies we act out to make interactions less awkward. This was that phenomenon taken beyond the point of absurdity, emperor’s new clothes-style. It’s an absolute riot from start to finish.
Lee Witczak, the chair of ‘Sit Down Shut up and Watch’ (the sister festival of Oska Bright based in Australia) presented two of the top picks from their latest festival. She spoke passionately about the two festivals’ joint commitment to ‘changing the culture of disability-led film’ and made as strong a case as any for people with learning difficulties to claim the voice they have and use it to tell stories from unique perspectives.
Our Story by William Gregory is an endearing personal portrait of how Gregory met his wife and went on to start a young family with her. They were high-school sweethearts, and the lo-fi animation and charming illustrations feed into that sense of the optimism of youth.
Caleb Rixon’s The Next Factor is like a quintessential piece of Australian comedy in the ilk of Kath & Kim. It’s all there. The deadpan delivery. The ridiculous characters. The slightly over-saturated contrast. The film searingly lampoons both the world of am-dram and the modern obsession with fame and reality-TV talent shows.
The afternoon’s series of screenings ended with a showing of 46/47 by Nadine Heinze and Marc Dietschreit is a serious piece of filmmaking. The title references the number of chromosomes associated with Down’s syndrome. The film’s protagonist, Daniel, has a ‘missing chromosome,’ and is therefore the only person who seemingly doesn’t have Down’s syndrome. It’s such a simple device to flip the usual power relationships – and indeed the medical of disability – on their head, but it’s hugely effective.
Daniel’s isolation is both clear and hard-hitting. Those around him aren’t overtly mean or abusive, but they stare, they make it clear that he’s different – as if the big badge around his neck didn’t do that already. A small child offhandedly mocks “have you found you’re missing chromosome yet?” in a moment that surely speaks to many about the casual nature that discrimination and abuse often takes, filtered down even to our children. Little details like logos on packaging being exclusionary allow you to suspend your disbelief and add a satisfying sense of realism. Daniel even has a well-meaning but ultimately patronising friend.
What the film does unequivocally is illustrate the central tenant of the social model; it’s not impairment that is disabling but the reaction and attitudes of society. A person without Down’s syndrome in a society governed and run in the interests and image of people with the condition would surely be the disabled one. This, along with a wealth of diversity and a pleasing level of quality, is definitely something to take home from the afternoon session of Oska Bright’s second day.