All good things must come to an end, and so the time has come to say goodbye to another stellar year of the Melbourne Underground Film Festival. And what a year it’s been. It has easily been one of their best years yet with a program of boasting outstanding and provocative independent cinema.
Jarret and I arrived nice and early, in time for the closing night trivia. Being so early in the evening the attendance for this competition was reasonably low, but that bared no relevance to the fun that was had. Talk about “FakeShemp represent”. After two rounds of trivia, which lasted about an hour, Jarret and I swept up the accolades by coming first (myself) and second (Jarret) with only a hair’s breadth between our scores.
A few more people filtered into the theatre and it was time to watch the first feature for the night. We were treated to a strange Turkish documentary called REMAKE REMIX RIPOFF, which served as a retrospective look at the copy-cat films of the Turkish film industry throughout the 70s and 80s and how they cloned everything that was popular in Hollywood. It was a strangely compelling and highly amusing look at an industry of cinema that I knew existed once upon a time but never gave much thought to.
Following that film the doors opened and the room filled up quickly. Everyone was along for the world premier of Tim Spanos’ latest opus SIZZLER 77. It was a buzzing atmosphere with the sound of bottles clinking and the hum of people talking. Spirits were high and all of the faces from throughout the festival had grouped together to send the festival out with a bang.
And then there was SIZZLER 77, an outrageous and hysterical comedy set in the back streets of Melbourne during the late 70s. The crowd response was great and the film’s humour hit all of the right spots. It was brilliantly written, fully self-aware and acted with the right amount of insanity. It tells the story of a new pimp in town and the two detectives determined to bring him down. With every conceivable retro centric pop-reference thrown in to the mix it also serves as a nostalgic and edgy satire with a huge amount of appeal. Stay tuned for my review.
And so with the MUFF16 program at a close there was only one thing left to do and that was to announce the winners of the MUFF Awards. Festival director Richard Wolstencroft graced the stage alongside Hussein Khoder and Reilly Archer-Whelan to announce the MINI MUFF winners. Richard then called filmmaker Jon Hewitt to the stage to announce the various feature length winners. These awards included best screenplay, best director, best cinematography, and of course best film (amongst others).
Amongst the winners was FakeShemp.Net's Jarret Gahan who took out the tied award for BEST DOCUMENTARY. This is where I take a moment to indulge in some personal acknowledgement. To see my brother-from-another-mother scoop up this award was a sincerely amazing moment. I've witnessed the hard work he has put into the film and watched it come to life over the past couple of years. I honestly couldn't be prouder. Jarret has been a fundamental asset to FakeShemp.Net and he can now proudly call himself an award winning film maker. Congratulations brother. "Outstanding!".
A massive congratulations to all of the winners from the three of us here at FakeShemp.Net. We've attended the festival for many years and we feel strongly about 2015 being the most solid year yet. There was a greater focus and overall cohesiveness to this year's event and the quality of selection was outstanding. The festival boasted a vibrant collection of films with some being edgy and provocative and others that edged their way towards the mainstream without spilling over into a pool of wankery.
Following the awards Richard was taken off guard and told to halt the proceedings. Actress Kristen Condon then took the stage and surprised him with an award for Best Festival Director. Unbeknownst to him, a collective of festival supporters (us included) had planned to bestow this upon him to recognise his contributions to independent cinema. Over the past sixteen years he has provided an invaluable platform for indie filmmakers (new and old) to exhibit their work to audiences. He has given them an opportunity to showcase their work, where other festivals have denied them. MUFF represents the TRUE essence of indie cinema and has, in turn, served as a springboard to help propel a whole lot of notable filmmakers to success. The MUFF alumni include directors such as James Wan (Saw, Insidious, Furious 7), Patrick Hughes (Red Hill, Expendables 3) and Zak Hilditch (These Final Hours) amongst others. A bunch of filmmakers from present and past took to the stage to congratulate Richard and share their own stories and thoughts on the festival. It was a stunning way to close the 16th Melbourne Underground Film Festival (the festivities continued in the VIP room for a raucous after-party. But what happens behind closed doors, stays behind closed doors).
A massive thanks to Richard and MUFF for inviting us along as media partners and allowing us to curate our own evening. It has been an honour and we are proud to have provided a running commentary to the whole damn thing. On to MUFF 17!