Friday, 26 December 2014

Endings and beginnings

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone!

No, I am not announcing the end of my blog despite no posts for months. It's been a long and busy year, moving to Bangkok, enjoying the trailing spouse lifestyle, dabbing in some NGO work, then progressing to the most busy and stressful job so far in my career; being asked to be a best man at the last minute; travelling around the world for work and play; forging new ground in the second year of being with the love of my life; and somewhere in there finally starting a blog about two of the passions of my life: film and television.

I will continue blogging next year but I have mostly been kept dormant for the last few months because of some intense work periods. But I had to post about one thing before 2014 came to a close - the ending of the partnership between seminal Australian film reviewers Margaret and David.

Their on-screen partnership has lasted for 28 years, as long as I've been alive and longer and more fruitful than most marriages. It's ironic that although their subject matter is film, it is television that has cultivated their fame and sustained their cult for so long. This is another example of television being the unique medium that allows people, like Margaret and David, to enter our homes over weeks, months and even years, projecting as much passion, humour, anger and vulnerability as we might share in person with our very own friends.

Growing up, Magaret and David were my windows to the film world, my window to both the objectivity and subjectivity of film criticism, my window to the souls and visions of filmmakers. They were the aunt and uncle who could passionately, constructively and respectfully disagree, and it didn't mean the end of their relationship. In fact, it only strengthened it. I didn't have those kinds of role models growing up.

In my youthful days as a wannabe film director, I didn't just envision film festival and awards acceptance speeches, I also envisioned intense debates between David and Margaret about my future films. I wanted them to debate my films, to disagree on my films (I knew David would not like my shakey-cam shots, so Margaret would always give me the higher ratings). I'm quite saddened that there won't be a generation of filmmakers that will have that as part of their dream, and there won't be a whole generation of filmgoers who compare their film opinions to the David and Margaret scale.

Although my film future was not to be (if only talent was not necessary to succeed), their presence remained throughout the years. One of my most cherished memories is their review of Khoa Do's The Finished People. Sometimes they are criticised (rightly or wrongly) for their soft ratings for Australian films, but this film demonstrated exactly why that soft touch was needed. It's a lovely film full of heart and poignancy, but would not have received a fair audience without David and Margaret as advocates. In Australia, very rarely do we hear sympathetic stories of these characters from the Vietnamese enclaves of Cabramatta, who are trapped within vicious visibility circles of voiceless children within a migrant world, hidden behind a multicultural story of drugs and cuisines, safely hidden from the view of middle class Australia.

Based on this review, I took my mum to a faraway arthouse cinema to see the film - it was ironic that although this was a film about the people living in the area that this film captured had to go so far away to watch it. Luckily in this case, the 50 minute train ride home was fertile ground for discussions about the film. My mum's comments afterwards was the most I have heard her say for any film. Living in the area, she could see the locations, the familiar settings, and the stories behind the faces of the homeless children she saw.

In this review, and countless others, Margaret's and David's love and enthusiasm for Australian film, and film in general, never wavered. And without their reviews, I don't think I would have had that train ride with my mother. Film clubs around Australia might not have flourished like they do. And this blog might never have existed. It's been a great 28 years, and I wish them the best of luck in the future.