A little bit disappointed, it is the feeling that I walked out from the Forum Theatre after watching the documentary undermined: tales from Kimberley on MIFF 2018. The whole session lasts over three hours, including the screening and a short introduce and speech conducted by the filmmakers and a guitar performance given by Albert Wiggan who is an indigenous musician from Kimberley, moreover, a Q&A with directors and produces is after the screening.
As far as the documentary itself, I have to say that it occasionally happened not only in a certain region, but in the world that disharmony between energy developments and local community and environment. That it happens is not a big news, but why and how is what we should most concern. I was expected that the filmmaker could excavate more, could bring something new and deeper to the table. However, I was quickly ted up with hearing the local communities continuously complains in front of the lens. It may need something different to prop up the frame and story. Besides, throughout the film, the voices from the other side that the energy company and government department is relatively short, comparing with paragraphs of interviews of indigenous residents when we criticise objective and fair of a documentary.
Putting aside the personal view of the documentary, I find myself are still pondering a question that: what is the point of screening a film in a festival? in other word, what does it bring us after a film been selected and screened in a film festival? Taking the undermined: tales from Kimberley as an example, I have these thoughts:
For Kimberley and people who live there, as this documentary is premiered on the MIFF today, one thing that for sure is more and more people will know the place Kimberley, and will have an awareness of what happen between the local community and the energy developing project. This place will grab much attention than before. Thus, any further action taken there by the company or by the government will under pressure. Another thing can be expected is that the local community and these indigenous people may receive more support in the future.
For the film event, Marijke points out that a film festival should target specific communities or demographic groups (3). This documentary has been included in a separate section in the MIFF as shows that a special focus was put on the Australian films and the indigenous culture.
For the director Nicholas Wrathall, who has contributed to bring us a body of documentaries, I think the film festival is exactly where he belongs to. He has won several awards from different film festivals: The United Nations Association Film Festival Grand Jury Award for Best Documentary, the Audience Award, Best Documentary Feature at the Palm Springs International Film Festival. He is also known for another documentary Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia, which tell a legendary life of Gore Vidal. As people usually choose to see a feature (or I should say commercial movies) on cinema instead of a documentary, the film festival has offered a more liberal stage for him and his talent.
Please notice that I did not say documentaries only belong to film festival, but people may notice the contrast of documentaries between courtesy in festival awards and absence at the box office. This phenomenon is quite interesting, and I would like to explore the reason behind it on next journal.
De Valck, Marijke. ‘What is a film festival? How to study festivals and why you should’. Film Festivals: History, theory, method, practice. NY: Routledge, 2016
“Day 5: Mud crab on the fire with Albert and Rennie after a day on the islands off One Arm Point.” Undermined tales from Kimberley Facebook page, May 11 2017, https://www.facebook.com/kimberleyproject/photos/a.1681073785531521/1682734025365497/?type=3&theater