Film Festival Frenzy

Foreign films buffs (and by foreign, I mean anything made somewhere other than Australia or the Unites States) will be very busy indeed from next week with two international festivals screening in Brisbane at the same time. Both the Russian Resurrection Film Festival and the British Film Festival will launch in Brisbane on Thursday (November 6) and run until November 16. How it came to be that the two festivals – both of which will feature new releases and retrospective screenings – are scheduled at the exact same time is anybody’s guess and it will certainly make life difficult for those wanting to take in films from both events. On the upside though, it is always great to get early access to new films or catch screenings of films – new or old – that otherwise may never be shown on local screens.

Russian Resurrection

The Russian Resurrection Film Festival will screen exclusively at Event Cinemas Myer Centre with 20 films on the schedule over 11 days. Amongst the news films being showcased are What’s My Name, a psychological drama about a teenage girl meeting her father for the first time, Goodbye Mum, a contemporary drama based loosely on Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, and the 3D animated sequel Space Dogs 2. Adult tickets start at $17.50 and multi-film passes are available. To see the full festival schedule, head to the festival website.

British Film Festival

Meanwhile, the British Film Festival kicks off with Testament of Youth, the true-life story of Vera Brittain starring Emily Watson and Games of Thrones’ Kit Harrington, with Alicia Vikander in the lead role. Of course, new films from Ken Loach (Jimmy’s Hall) and Mike Leigh (Cannes winner Mr. Turner) feature in the line-up. There are also plenty of familiar faces in various roles across the 20+ films on offer, including the likes of Pierce Brosnan, Emma Thompson, Colin Farrell, Jessica Chastain, Keira Knightley, Toni Collette and the pop culture icon that is Benedict Cumberbatch. The British Film Festival screens at Palace Centro and Palace Barracks, with adult tickets from as low as $15.00 for movie club members. The screening schedule and is online now at the festival website.

BAPFF

Also arriving soon is the inaugural Brisbane Asia Pacific Film Festival, taking over from the much-loved Brisbane International Film Festival. The new event, as the name suggests, is very much focussed on films from the Asia Pacific region, narrowing the scope somewhat from BIFF and a change that has drawn criticism from some quarters. Only time will tell, but certainly the first collection of movies announced seem impressive enough and include the Palme d’Or-winning Winter Sleep from Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Once Upon a Time in Anatolia). The Brisbane Asia Pacific Film Festival (BAPFF) runs from November 29 to December 14 and details of the eight films announced thus far are now available at the festival website.

Beck Blooms @ Black Bear Lodge

As part of her Bloom tour, teenage Brisbane songstress Sahara Beck hit the Black Bear Lodge on Wednesday night and charmed all in attendance with a repertoire of songs that demonstrated her maturity as both a songwriter and a performer. Supported by Amy Shark, the show proved a great showcase of local talent and served notice that both ladies are destined for bigger things.

Sahara Beck

Sahara Beck

Amy Shark

Amy Shark

Sahara Beck performs at The Longplayer Sessions at The Zoo this Thursday (October 30) with The Phoncurves.

For more photos from the event. click here.

Pride

Britain has a fine tradition of making films in which the working class are very much front and centre of proceedings and Pride is the latest such offering. The backdrop for this story is the 1984 miner’s strike, a 12-month battle between mine workers and the Thatcher government over the decision to close several mines and the subsequent loss of 20 000 jobs. This based-on-real events story centres on a group of gay and lesbian activists determined to raise money to support striking miners in their battle with authorities, even if their efforts aren’t appreciated by all of those they are trying to help. There is a lot to like about Pride, a movie that addresses some very serious issues (worker’s rights, homophobia, the onset of AIDS) and is a lot of fun without ever trivialising the plight of anybody involved or the circumstances in which they find themselves.

Pride poster

This high quality historical comedy-drama kicks off with 20-year-old Joe taking his first tentative steps into the world of gay activism, hesitantly joining the throng in the 1984 London Gay Pride march. The wide-eyed Joe (George MacKay) becomes enamoured with the confidence of those he meets and soon finds himself part of a group calling itself LGSM (Lesbians & Gays Support the Miners), led by the bombastic and somewhat idealistic Mark (Ben Schnetzer). Although some within the gay community believe that Mark and his group should be more concerned with the growing AIDS crisis, Mark is adamant that it is important to show their solidarity with another group being oppressed by the Government. However, their efforts are stymied initially when they can’t find any mining organisation willing to accept donations from ‘poofters’. Eventually, the group find themselves in the small, conservative Welsh town of Onllwyn at the invitation of union representative Dai Donovan (Paddy Considine). As expected, the clash of cultures produces plenty of laughs and whilst it can be argued that there are stereotypes at play in the attitude and behaviours from both the townspeople and the members of LGSM – such as Dominic West’s cynical yet flamboyant Jonathon – the film never shies away from the seriousness of the situation.

Pride 1

Everything about this film evokes the time and place in which the events take place. From the fabulous soundtrack that features some of the most iconic tunes of the period – Frankie Goes to Hollywood to Billy Bragg to Pete Shelley and many more besides – to perhaps the greatest mullet ever to grace the big screen. This majestical mane is donned by Jessica Gunning as Sian James, a housewife who arises from the malaise of urban domesticity to emerge as a voice of reason within her community. Despite some initial reservations, the town council embrace LGSM and their fundraising efforts, although there are some homophobic holdouts to remind us that not everybody is as enlightened as we might like. Cultural collisions abound and friendships are made amidst an environment of uncertainty and distress for the mining families. Throughout it all, Joe grapples with his own identity, remaining very much in the closet to his family, concocting elaborate stories to explain his absences from home.

PRIDE

It is so strange to see Considine as a dignified middle-aged man, but he is terrific as Donovan, a man whose willingness to embrace the support offered by LGSM proves the catalyst for a collaboration that ultimately results in significant changes in attitudes within the union movement more broadly. Bill Nighy takes a step back from his more typical on-screen personas as the understated Cliff, a quietly-spoken community stalwart whose own history is less of a secret than he knew, while Imelda Staunton is hilarious as Hefina. There is plenty of Full Monty-like humour throughout, with many of the best lines coming via the working class women whose spirit and determination goes beyond that of the men folk who have the most to lose as a result of the mine closures and subsequently the most to gain from the support being proffered by LGSM. With despair, tragedy and heartbreak in the mix and a collection of characters who, despite their flaws, are utterly likeable, Pride takes a light-hearted but never trite examination of characters willing to take a stand in the face of adversity and injustice.

Pride 2

With his first feature film in 15 years, director Matthew Warchus has constructed a film that tracks a particularly nasty period in British social and political history in a way that is enjoyable without ever disrespecting the sacrifices of those at the forefront of the fight/s.

Education Update #29

Education News 3

Metacognition: The Gift That Keeps Giving

Many teachers we know enjoy teaching students how to wield one of the most powerful thinking tools: metacognition, or the ability to think about your thoughts with the aim of improving learning. Students who do not learn how to “manage” themselves well as they proceed through school experience more setbacks, become discouraged and disengaged from learning, and tend to have lower academic performance….read more

The Six Major Trends in Digital Learning

Digital learning (e-learning, if you must) has been with us for a while now, but the direction it’s taking us hasn’t always been clear. Now, at last, figures are emerging in the fog, and we can see where this is taking us. New techniques in teaching and learning, which take full advantage of the digital possibilities, and, as with other digital economies, a focus on the learner (‘user’) rather than the teacher of the school….read more

Kids Get Better Grades When They Share Similarities With Teachers

A new study suggests that a simple getting-to-know-you exercise might improve classroom relationships and even close the achievement gap. The teacher-student relationship impacts every aspect of the educational experience. When students don’t feel safe, respected, or truly known by their teacher, they are less likely to invest and engage in their education….read more

Not Just Group Work – Productive Group Work!

We know that group work can be instructionally effective, but only if it is productive. We don’t just want busywork when students work in groups — we want learning! Work doesn’t always create learning, an idea that many teachers still struggle with. So how do we create that structure for productive group work?…read more

A Well-Made Gradual Release Of Responsibility Model

The gradual release of responsibility model is a key tenet of formal learning, from basketball courts to apprenticeships to academic classrooms. In short, show me, help me, let me implies a lot….read more

Avoiding Obsolescence: 13 Standards For A Near-Future School

In 2014, an “unconnected classroom”—that is, one without social components, digital media output, authentic and highly visible school-to-school and school-to-community functions, and personal learning for each student through mobile and adaptive technology for each student—is seen as appropriately cautious. By 2024, that same classroom will be seen as pedagogically absent and professionally negligent, and be leaning towards obsolescence….read more

G20 Arts Galore

The G20 Cultural Celebrations get underway next Friday (October 24) and there really is something for everybody over the 17 days of FREE events in Brisbane city and suburbs. In addition to the extensive music program (more details here) Velociraptor, Busby Marou, Emma Louise, The Phoncurves, Sahara Beck, Don Walker, Sampology, The Medics, Robert Forster and many more, there is also theatre, dance, circus, visual art and lighting installations to enjoy.

G20 Cultural

Some of the events scheduled throughout the celebrations include Deep Blue, Circa Zoo: Brink, The Bubble Effect: Disco Diving, Colour Me Brisbane, Global Groove and heaps more in myriad venues and outdoor locations around Brisbane.

Whilst events such as the Colour Me Brisbane Carnival, City of Dance and Light Up the Floor will feature every evening from October 24 to November 9, other happenings such as Brisbane on Parade, Springflare and a free performance of Coppelia by the Queensland Ballet at Brisbane River Stage are strictly one-off events.

There really is too much happening for me to cover it all in detail here, but for more information about the G20 Cultural Program and numerous events on the schedule, head to the official website.

Regardless of what the political reasons behind the Queensland Government’s decision to provide this feast of free arts and entertainment might be, there is no doubt that this is a great opportunity to witness some fabulous performances that showcase the vast array of talented arts practitioners and performers we produce in this part of the world.

Make sure you check out as many performances as you can because free stuff like this doesn’t come along very often. See you at the shows.

Son of a Gun

As a debut feature, Son of a Gun is an ambitious, if not altogether effective, heist drama in which some interesting variations on the theme compensate somewhat for the shortcomings in narrative logic and lack of character development. Directed by Julius Avery and set in Western Australia, Son of a Gun ticks all the boxes as far as crime flicks go. There are double crosses, ethnic crime bosses, car chases, a robbery that doesn’t quite go as planned and, of course, the obligatory sexy seductress whose presence causes all manner of upset within the ranks. Whilst much of what happens is very familiar, it is the heist itself that proves the point of difference between Son of a Gun and other films of this ilk.

Son of A Gun poster

The film is structured into three very distinct segments, the first of which begins with JR (Brenton Thwaites) arriving to serve a stretch in a Perth prison. It doesn’t take long before he wheedles his way into the orbit of hardened criminal Brendan (Ewan McGregor) and his hangers-on, such as Sterlo (Matt Nable). Soon enough, JR is released and the next chapter in his life, and the movie, begins. There are some real credibility problems with much of what transpires that extends beyond the suspension of disbelief required in any action film. I mean, even if we accept the elaborate prison break involving a hijacked helicopter, it is pretty hard to accept that, after such an escape, these men are able to move freely around the town with impunity. Why are there not police on every street corner seeking them out? The apparent lack of interest by law enforcement is hard to swallow and actually results in a noticeable lack of tension.

Son of a Gun 1

The arrival of Tasha (Alicia Vikander), the requisite stripper/hooker desperate to escape ‘the life’ – into the mix sees JR questioning his loyalties as he succumbs to her feminine wiles. However, there is no obvious chemistry between them and the whole relationship is very unconvincing. Certainly, the chemistry between them – or lack thereof – belies the risks that JR is prepared to take to save them both from the clutches of some dangerous dudes, the most sinister of which is Sam (Jacek Koman), the head honcho of the crime syndicate to whom Brendan is seemingly beholden. However, a distinct lack of characterisation means we learn very little about the various players, their history or their motivations, which makes it hard to care what happens to any of them.

The robbery is what makes the setting such an integral part of the narrative and it is one of the more impressive elements of the film. When things go awry, there is the obligatory shootout and car chase, albeit amidst the dust and dirt of Kalgoorlie rather than the streets of an American metropolis. The way in which they hide the getaway vehicle and transport it out of town is also quite clever, with speedway racing making a rare appearance on the big screen. Once the robbery is out of the way, the third segment of Son of a Gun focusses on JR’s struggle to break free of the controlling Brendan and remove Alicia from Sam’s figurative grasp. It is the final moments of the film that are perhaps the best as double-crosses abound and we are never entirely sure who is going to end up with the bounty.

Son of A Gun 2

This is a competent effort that offers some interesting moments within a broader narrative that is otherwise lacking in clarity and logic. Like so many films these days, Son of a Gun looks fabulous, even if that part of Australia isn’t presented as a particularly pleasant place to live. Thwaites is all bug-eyed wonder in what is his first lead role on home soil since graduating from Home and Away to Hollywood, while McGregor (Trainspotting, Moulin Rouge) and Nable (The Final Winter, Around the Block) are suitably grimy and grotesque as the brothers-in-arms who we are expected to accept as having some kind of moral code through their violent banishment of another inmate for being ‘dishonest’. Other familiar faces include Nash Edgerton as the race ace recruited as a getaway driver and Damon Herriman as a paranoid pill popping purveyor of weapons, while Tom Budge plays an utterly ridiculous minion whose presence is irritating beyond belief. A disappointing, but not wholly unsatisfying, tale of criminality, deception and betrayal.

Sahara Beck + Amy Shark + Black Bear Lodge = Great Night Out

If you want to catch two of Queensland’s best young singer-songwriters of the moment, Black Bear Lodge is the place to be on Wednesday, October 22 when Sahara Beck and Amy Shark hit the stage.

Touring to celebrate the release of her second EP Bloom, Sahara Beck’s reputation is growing exponentially as a result of national and international radio airplay and crowd pleasing appearances at myriad festivals throughout Brisbane and south east Queensland. She was also invited by Katie Noonan to contribute a track to the Songs that Made Me compilation album and will feature in the Long Player Sessions as part of the G20 Cultural Celebrations.

IMGP0083

Beck’s hometown show at Black Bear Lodge is part of a tour that takes in Sydney, Newcastle, Adelaide and Melbourne, as well as some regional centres. A quirky, diminutive performer, Beck delivers a catchy and captivating collection of songs with a casual confidence and that belies her youth.

The Gold Coast-based Amy Shark, meanwhile, has been plying her trade in venues large and small on the glitter strip for the last five years or so, along with appearances at events such as Valley Fiesta and The Teneriffe Festival and support slots for artists such as Matt Corby and The Delta Riggs. Released in July, her latest single Spits on Girls has attracted plenty of radio airplay and positive reviews, but it is her live shows that really provide a dynamic and diverse showcase of her talents.

Amy Shark

Sahara Beck and Amy Shark are performing at Black Bear Lodge in Fortitude Valley on Wednesday, October 22. Tickets are just $15.00 each and can be purchased online through Moshtix.