Wednesday, November 07, 2007 at 11:05 am | Posted by McGarmott
This is the fifty-sixth film I saw at the Hollywood Arclight Cinemas and the ninth I saw from the AFI FEST programme.
The thing that attracted my attention to the film was that it involves the desert. Never mind that it is Australia.
What's interesting was how international the characters were. We begin on an Indonesian boat - which means I'm the only person in the entire cinema, probably who understood what the characters are saying without having to refer to the subtitles ... well, most of the time anyway, Indon is a bit harder than Malay and my Malay has deteriorated as it is. Wait - not all the characters are Indon - three of them are the fisherman, who are transporting a bunch of illegal refugees into Austrlia, a group of Cambodians and a group of Iraqis (which an Australian character later mistook as Persians). The time period is early 1990s.
Basically, it came to pass that one member from each nationality ended up bumping into each other as they try to make their way out of the harsh desert in the middle of nowhere in Australia. The Khmer insists that his dad is an Australian living in Perth; the Iraqi is looking forward to a happier, freer life in Australia; the Indon arrived there by accident. All three speak good but accented English. On the side, a trio of Australian reserve army soldiers are being radio-ed around to locate the missing refugees. What's interesting about them is that they are not malicious in any way, and treat their interesting but easily boring job with good nature and much light-hearted banter.
It feels a tad long, but it has an assured sense of style. There are moments of comedy, and moments of stylistic boredom (meaning, played with a trancey way of editing and a certain kind of music ... I like the music, by the way).
Later during the Q&A, I mentioned to the director Michael James Rowland that I understood Malay; after that I went up to him and talked to him a little. This is his first film, ten years after film school. The project took seven years from writing to release. His next project involves a story of escape too, but more morbid - I shall keep it mum for the moment. He admits that his Indon consultant told him that the Indonesian in the film was a little formal - I didn't really realise that until he pointed it out. But honestly, it was pretty accurate, and I found the actual Indonesian dialogue funnier than the translation. There's just something to the Indon/Malay race and the way they talk that makes it funny (often in the form of sarcasm).
The way the film is bookended was real unconventional - the framing scene in the beginning didn't make sense to me structurally, until we get to the end framing scene.
How Good I Think The Film Is: 7.5/10
How Much I Liked It: 7.5/10