Following our MUFF DIARY we have one final goodie for you. The Melbourne Underground Film Festival is coming to television this week with their very first ever BEST OF MINI MUFF program. As the name suggests some of the best short films from this year's festival have been selected for a new episodic program, which showcase a variety of confronting, artistic and entertaining films. The show debuts at 10:30PM this Tuesday night (October 7) on Channel 31 in Melbourne. Make sure you tune in for 30 minutes of MUFF.
Back in August I spoke with the festival co-director HUSSEIN KHODER to discuss what the festival has in store for us and I have caught up with him again for a quick TAKE FIVE. I asked him 5 snappy questions about the new TV show. Here's what he had to say...
How many submitted films did you have to watch this year?
Since I am the short film curator I had to watch all the short film that were submitted. There was about 230-250 short films submitted.
What qualities qualified a film for competition?
I look for a few things. First I have to like it. I am not going to select it if I don't like it. Then I look for a few things like how original it is and how entertaining it is and how memorable it is. Since I am a massive fan of experimental and avant-garde cinema I usually accept all the experimental films we get. Finally I look for the two best things; Violence and Nudity. The more extreme the better. If a film has either violence or nudity or both then it usually has a better chance
One thing I don't concern myself with is the actual quality of the film (low-res or hi-res) since not all film makers have money or equipment to make their films look amazing.
What was the highlight of the festival for you?
The highlight for me was getting to meet so many different people from all parts of the industry. I am a filmmaker myself so expanding my network is something I am always doing and this year's festival was the best place to do it. Also seeing so many people attend the short film nights that I curated was such a great feeling
Was choosing shorts for the new TV show difficult?
I sat in all the short film screenings and I could see what people liked and what they didn't like. So I went with the stuff that people are going to want to see and I also added a few of my own personal favourites as well.
What can we expect from Best of Mini Muff?
You can expect some of the best and wildest short films that MUFF have received and there is something in the show for everyone. So make sure you watch it.
Tonight's screening at MUFF may be the last for me this year. Regrettably I may not be able to attend any more due to other commitments. I am especially sorry to be missing out on the closing night (plus awards). I encourage all of you to get along, though, because the closing night is a belter with MUFF's international guest, Giovanni Coda presenting his film THE NAKED ROSE as well as Stuart Simpson presenting his film CHOCOLATE STRAWBERRY VANILLA. A definite MUST.
My night began with a team meeting of the FakeShemp.Net crew. We've got some exciting things in the works and cannot wait to unleash it all upon you. It was a productive meeting with more podcast preparations and brainstorming being our main focus. I can confirm that unless we hit a snag the podcast will be unleashed next weekend! Stay tuned for that. Tonight Jarret also launched his monthly COLLECTION UPDATE on our YouTube channel and I encourage you to subscribe. His videos are strangely rhythmic and compulsive.
And so 6:30 rolled on by faster than we knew it and we all hopped in the car and headed to THE BACKLOT STUDIOS. With little time to spare we grabbed a drink, mingled quickly with the festival organisers Hussein, Elva & David and then made our way into the cinema. We came to watch THE SUICIDE THEORY.
With a provocative name like THE SUICIDE THEORY and little knowledge of it's story, I had no idea what to expect from this new independent Australian feature film. Suspecting something gratuitous and/or deeply disturbing I was surprised and relieved to be confronted with a unique and original film, which was dramatic and comical in equal measure. It tells the story of two men who are both dealing with unimaginable grief. One of them (Steven) has harnessed his darkness by becoming a gun-for-hire while the other man (Percival) is desperately suicidal. Percival believes himself to be cursed when no method of suicide actually works and so he employs Steven to kill him. The two men form an unlikely bond when Steven's attempts to kill Percival all fail. The story is complex and to reveal any more would be to ruin it for you. So good is this film that I uncomfortably held in one of the biggest pisses I've ever had to take. I kept waiting for a moment to quickly duck out but the film was so gripping that I couldn't leave. Every beat seemed important and to have left the cinema, even for a moment, would have ruined the film. I am struggling to find any criticisms with THE SUICIDE THEORY aside from the fact that the title may be off putting to many people... however it is a very appropriate title. Director Dru Brown has crafted an amazing looking film with rock-solid performances from every single player. Leo Cain and Steve Mouzakis are fantastic as the two leads and their on screen chemistry is undeniable. Both deliver sincere and outstanding performances. The script is good too and moves from beat to beat without drooping and it keeps the story moving at full steam ahead. The film is shot well, lit well and edited well. It's an accomplished film, which will stick with me for some time. I am already wanting to watch it again and cannot wait to see what good things Dru Brown moves onto from here. This is an exceptional film.
With other commitments to get to Jarret and Justine left and I stuck around for the next feature film HOW TO TIME TRAVEL. Sadly this did not strike a chord with me and I actually left 40 minutes into it. I guess ya can't win 'em all. The film was a very low budget feature, which told the story of a heartbroken guy who invents a time travel device that allows him and his roommate to travel back and forth through time in small increments. I was a silly and fun premise, executed poorly. The script was very average and the performances were all amateur. Ha, I even recognised one of the actors from a recent episode of Family Feud. Most of the film was shot hand-held and lacked discipline in it's handling. At best the movie felt like a decent student film, but was more suited to a short film rather than a feature. With none of the jokes resonating and an audience full of family and friends (who seemed to think it was hilarious) I bided my time, waiting for an opportune moment to leave discreetly. I sure didn't want to offend... with an old guy sitting behind me, coughing into my ear the whole time I just had to say "fuck it" and I left. It was a bugger of a way to finish the festival but on the flip side, I was still buzzing from THE SUICIDE THEORY.
This year's MUFF has been one of the years lineups yet. START OPTIONS EXIT, A VENUE FOR THE END OF THE WORLD, THE SUICIDE THEORY are some of the best Australian films I have seen this year and with CHOCOLATE STRAWBERRY VANILLA closing up the festival I can say with confidence that MUFF15 has been an amazing festival.
A huge congratulations and personal thanks to Richard Wolstencroft, Hussein Khoder, Elva Clarke and David Joseph Clarke for all of their generosity and enthusiasm for our humble little website. Thanks guys... with your invitation to appear on 3RRR radio with you and your sharing of this diary, you have helped bring a new audience to FakeShemp.Net and have given us a hell of a lot more traction. I am truly grateful.
I have also made a lot of new friends and for that MUFF15 has been a highlight of the year for me.
Muchas Gracias Amigos.
The first film struck an immediate chord with me and the audience's reaction was divided. It was called THE MEAT CYCLE and it played out like a weird, fucked up avant-guard experimental horror piece. It was much more of a concept as opposed to a narrative (although it did have one) and the screen was filled with terrifying images... the stuff of nightmares. I admired the vision of this film a whole lot and would love to see it re-cut to some kind of fucked up industrial, electronic metal or something.
And then there was TRASH, a film about two brothers on a quest to dispose of body parts. This film was also a comical tale, which was well written and acted perfectly. The audience seemed to respond well it also.
And so the rest of the line-up played out in a succession of hits and misses. Some were good. Some were bad... while others seemed pretentious. Some would have made for excellent installations and others felt like first year film school shorts. Nevertheless these are all films made by people with a strong passion and the brawn to actually make stuff. I can't possibly diss them directly or single out which films I didn't like... I admire each of the filmmakers too much.
And so I found myself driving home at midnight... bemused by what I have just experienced. Short films really ware me out and I still hadn't found that coffee... I guess it will have to wait until morning.
Due to an unexpected problem at work I wasn't able to attend the second night of MUFF. I was not happy about it, however, fortune smiled upon me when the festival director, Richard Wolstencroft, contacted me in the afternoon and invited me to be part of his annual MUFF spot on 3RRR radio. My personal creed is to never knock back an opportunity and so without much hesitation I accepted. Midnight arrived and before I knew it I was sitting in a studio alongside Richard, Kristen Condon, Matthew Victor Pastor and Glenn Maynard. Appearing on THE PARTY SHOW with host Headley Gritter we spent the hours between midnight and 2AM shooting the breeze, talking about everything from MUFF to FakeShemp.Net and all else in between. It was a heap of fun and despite the attention being too heavily focused on my video store, it was great exposure for FakeShemp.Net and I managed to get in a few plugs for our KILLER KLOWNS screening. You can listen to us talk shit by clicking the banner image below.
Thankfully I WAS able to attend night #3 and I arrived to see the world premier of one of the most unique documentaries I have seen in ages.
Whenever I watch a documentary I hate feeling like I am being educated. I prefer to obtain the information without feeling like I am being spoon-fed and a doco that entertains me will always win out over others. This year has been a great year for documentaries and I've seen some fantastic ones. Some of the standouts have been I AM BIG BIRD, THIS IS LIFE and THE SEARCH FOR WENG WENG ... and I can now add A VENUE FOR THE END OF THE WORLD to that list!
I didn't know much about this film prior to tonight and I chose to see it based on its title alone. The name conjured up so many possibilities and my curiosity was well and truly spiked. The film's director, Aidan Prewitt, and producer Schy Peterson, were invited to the front to introduce the film and with only a brief thank you to the audience they kept their cards very close to their chest. The lights dimmed and the film began. It immediately caught everyone's attention and the audience was clearly responding favourably.
A VENUE FOR THE END OF THE WORLD is a unique and refreshing documentary, which explores a concept that most people would never have given much thought to. What do rock stars and dictators have in common? Of course the answer is that they both have the ability to command an audience. With obvious parallels between Adolf Hitler and Mick Jagger, the film has its premise and sets about presenting a very funny, unexpected and captivating journey. Made in Melbourne, director Aiden Prewitt puts himself in the limelight as the camera follows him through the corridors of Hi-Sense Arena. Like a rock star he walks through a set of doors and onto the main stage where he is greeted by a stadium full of people. Cut to black and we are taken back in time to explain how he came to be in this position. Through his investigation Prewitt travels the world and interviews notable performers and event-designers and taps into their own thoughts and experiences. Personalities such as Dick Cavett (talk show host), Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull) and Paul Provenza (comedian & director) share their views about commanding crowds and other behind-the-scenes personalities share stories about experiences like Woodstock and Altamont.
Throughout the film Aidan Prewitt plays with the audience and cleverly laces his story with an on-going ruse, which ultimately highlights his conclusion before he has even presented it. I found myself catching on to some of his shrewd tactics midway through the film and spent the rest of it in awe of his filmmaking. Blending amazing stock footage of mass-congregation with topical parallels, the concept is highly original and his method of storytelling is affective and highly entertaining. This is a documentary that could easily hold its own amongst bigger, highly produced films and proverbially piss all over them. With any luck it will enjoy attention at international film festivals and strike a chord wherever it plays.
Following the film Aidan and Schy returned to do a Q&A and the audience, myself included, were full of questions. One of the striking revelations was that they shot the entire film for the price of airline tickets. With no money to pay their interviewees, they managed to pull off the impossible. The film looks like a million dollars, it is edited to rival the best and will charm whoever sees it. Oh and it never surrenders to the temptation of becoming political. Excellent.
Melbourne cult film-figure Richard Wolstencroft returns with the 15th MELBOURNE UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL. What began all those years ago as a big FUCK YOU to the snobbier commercial festivals has proved itself to be an important and celebrated part of Australia's subversive film scene. Each year the festival showcases all of the weird, the confronting and the brash films that few other festivals would dare contemplate. It's to Richard's credit that MUFF lives on after all these years and appears to be healthier than ever. This year he has brought the festival to The Backlot Studios, which is one of Melbourne's newest and more impressive cinema venues.
This evening I attended the opening night and I was treated to an evening of outrageous hilarity and as much free booze as the body can endure. The main sponsor of this year's festival is Bacardi Rum and all guests were treated to a table full of rum, rum and more rum. Of course it was impossible to resist and I wasn't one to offend by refusing... hehe. As I sat with my girlfriend, sipping on my pina colada we watched the foyer fill up and before long there was a bustling atmosphere of filmmakers, actors and movie-goers. There were a lot of recognisable faces including the likes of Tottie Goldsmith, Jeremy Kewley, Kristen Condon and Tom McCathie.... McCathie was a fun character, looking to photobomb all of the selfies and professional snap shots that were flashing all over the joint. In hindsight I regret not telling him how much I loved him recently in DACE DECKLAN: PRIVATE EYE.
7PM clocked over and everyone filed into the cinema - have I mentioned how much I love this cinema? Once everyone was seated Richard welcomed his guests and introduced the festival's executive producer, filmmaker Frank Howson. Frank treated the audience to a brief and impassioned poem, which summed up the essence of MUFF, and inspired the audience with his words of encouragement and persistence. Following his words Richard introduced the two short films that preceeded the feature. A couple of sponsor trailers played while most of the audience talked amongst themselves and suddenly, and unexpectedly, our own FAKESHEMP.NET TRAILER came blearing onto the screen. To my shock, it caught everyone's attention and proved to be the most abrasive and effective pre-show ad. Haha. Go us!
The first short film off the rank was HUMAN INSIDE, which was a delightful little splatterfest about a totalitarian Aussie society where human flesh is the highest consumed food and all criminals (even the pettiest) are red-tagged and free for the killing to anyone with a bloodlust (apparently everyone). The audience responded well to the film and seemed to enjoy it. The gore was deliciously revolting and always amusing. It was definitely a great way to start the night's proceedings.
The next film up was PINT and was a clear winner with the audience. Its simple tale told of a poor bloke who consistently stuffs up at a friends wedding. I'm not even going to explain it to you and encourage you to watch it for yourself. The video is posted above and it is HILARIOUS! It's shot really well, written brilliantly and acted to perfection. Director Nic Barker has several films under his belt and his website is well worth visiting. Click here and read up on him.
And then came the feature film...
START OPTIONS EXIT opened up the MELBOURNE UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL with a wallop! This new Australian feature film sets out to assault our senses and offend as many people as possible... and it does so while smirking all the way. The film begins with an impressive and totally absorbing animated sequence, introducing the two lead characters via an old school Nintendo game. They are Neville and Yolis, two no-hopers who show zero regard for other people, social expectations or even themselves. Living a life of debauchery, loafing and video games we follow their exploits as they indulge in everything from degrading homeless people to raping ex-girlfriends... and in true subversive and exploitation style, we laugh at all of it (albeit uncomfortably for the most part). This is a film that achieves exactly what it sets out to do and makes no apologies. Some people may cringe at this comparison and I mean it as a compliment but Kevin Smith's CLERKS kept coming to mind all the way through START OPTIONS EXIT and I really hope that director's Yoav Lester and Christopher HF Mitchell enjoy the same level of attention that Smith has enjoyed. The film shares the same type of FUCK YOU attitude as CLERKS and also conjures thoughts of RULES OF ATTRACTION. I laughed till I hurt and dug all of the movie's depravity and innuendos. Yoav Lester and Ari Neville lead the film effortlessly and will easily appeal to a stoner demographic (again, a compliment). The support cast is great and there are some wonderful cameos from people like Tottie Goldsmith, Chopper Read and Ron Jeremy. Sadly it seems that Franco Cozzo's role was cut from the final cut, which is a shame because he has been part of the press release. Hopefully he will be seen on a dvd release. As if it wasn't already impressive enough, the film is technically excellent too. It looks sharp, avoids cheap tricks and maintains a strong and restrained cinematography. The party sequence is an excellent example of how controlled the film is and it easily rivals some of Hollywood's house-party movies. There is no doubt that people are going to be offended... some will be outraged.... and others will be bemused. This film ain't for them! For the rest of us who love our cinema cultish, provoking and explicit then START OPTIONS EXIT delivers in spades.
And so that was opening night. I had a fantastic time and enjoyed all three films. Unfortunately I wasn't able to attend the after party but I'm sure it was a belter. I'll be keen to see pics from it and hear stories. I will be doing my best to attend as many MUFF screenings as possible over the next week and will document everything that I can. If you haven't got tickets then grab some now. It is shaping up to be one of the strongest years yet.
The Melbourne Underground Film Festival needs no introduction. You may have landed on this article by clicking a link or perhaps you already follow us... whatever the case you probably already love MUFF. For the past 15 years filmmaker Richard Wolstencroft and his motley horde of minions have been dishing up festival after festival of alternative cinema. From low budget independent arthouse films to hardcore horror flicks and everything in between. With controversy in their wake and salivating cult movie-lovers at their disposal MUFF has forged an important and valuable platform for subversive cinema in Melbourne.
This year MUFF is embracing the crowd funding set-up and seeking help from those they love most... their fans. With a tantalising and confronting program on its way and special guests including legendary underground filmmaker Nick Zedd, the special Indiegogo campaign is in its final days and needs your help. For the love of bold & daring cinema and a FUCK YOU gesture to the mainstream you should climb on board the MUFF train and lend them your support. A little goes a long way.
This September I will be presenting a series of MUFF Diaries detailing my own experience at the festival and sharing my thoughts on the films and events they showcase. In the mean time I recently spoke with MUFF's assistant director & shorts programmer Hussain Khoder and fired off a few questions about this years festival.
Hussein, tell us a bit about this year's MUFF.
This year is the 15th year the festival and its going to be a great one. We have a great team behind us who help out with the festival and their contributions are going to help make this MUFF one of the best.
This year's theme is 'Evolve or Die'. Can you elaborate on that?
The same droll types of films have been made over and over and they're killing the industry. With new mediums and ways to make films the theme of Evolve Or Die is a message that the industry needs to embrace. Australia can make great films and but unless we evolve with new trends and ports of delivery things are set to look very dire.
This year MUFF moves to the new Backlot Studios. What do you think this adds to MUFF?
Since the Backlot is a smaller venue then what we had last year it means we are scaling down the festival but that, in turn, means that the quality of films will be a lot higher. The Backlot is an amazing venue and I've been there many times. I am really glad that MUFF is going to be held their year. It's exciting.
Looking back over the years, what has MUFF meant to Melbourne?
MUFF has been supporting local & indie filmmakers for the past 14 years. It's been a place where filmmakers can come and get their films screened when few others will support their content. It has been a festival that has produced some of the biggest filmmakers to come out of Australlia such as James Wan, Greg McLean and Patrick Hughes. It has become a community where filmmakers can come and network with other filmmakers & actors and fans can interact also.
What should people expect this year?
The same thing they should expect at every MUFF. GREAT FILMS, great people and just an awesome atmosphere. We always show the best of independent cinema and always try to shock the audience as much as possible. We have amazing local filmmakers attending and presenting their films. So if you haven’t been to MUFF then you must. It will be a great year for an introduction.
Tell us about the Indiegogo crowd funding campaign.
Because MUFF is a small independent festival we rely on donations, sponsorship and support from the fans. We needed some decent funding to bring guests down this year and we've been impressed with various other crowdfunding campaigns. So we thought we would give it a go. We have some great rewards on offer including masterclasses, dinner with Richard and other cool stuff. Check it out.
This year you are looking to bring Nick Zedd to the festival. What can you tell us about Nick and his role in this years festival?
Nick Zedd is an underground filmmaker from New York City and has been making films since the late 70s. His films feature extreme violence and black humour, which make him the perfect guest for MUFF.
Nick will be screening some of his films, which will also feature a Q&A. He will also be doing a masterclass and tickets to that can be purchased through the Indiegogo campaign.
What can you tell us about the short-film component of the festival this year?
The short film side of the festival has always been interesting and loads of filmmakers have caught their break through these shorts. It's always great seeing amazing projects come through the festival. There have been times when I've seen a short and think to myself “this person has a massive career ahead of them”. Last year we played around 80-90 shorts and will play the same amount this year. I'm still programming the shorts but so far they're some of the best I've seen. Everyone should make time for these this year.
When can people expect to see the program released?
We are currently in the process putting it together but the program should be released in early August.
What have been some of your personal favourite MUFF memories over the years?
There have been loads but my personal favourite memory is back in 2012 when we had Crispin Glover as a guest. Crispin was such a colourful character and he was great to talk to. He also gave me some solid advice about my own film-making. Other MUFF highlights over the years have included guests such as Troma's Lloyd Kaufman, Bruce La Bruce, Bret Easton Ellis, William Lustig, Ron Jeremy and Michael Tierney.
MUFF 2014 assaults our senses this September. Support their campaign and stay tuned for more updates, exclusives and interviews.