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It’s goal is to promote a culture of resistance; from Kamahl to Ron Jeremy and everything in-between, the Sydney Underground Film Festival is back for it’s 3rd year. “With over twenty sessions and more than 120 films, the festival will have something for everyone,” says Festival Director Katherine Berger. But not quite everyone, surely …..

But it IS for the cinematically adventurous who will get a movie hit from a program that includes: smell cinema – Pink Flamingos, the infamous transgressive cult comedy featuring Divine, from John Waters, complete with ‘Odorama’ scratch and sniff cards; inspired by the life of Jesco White, “the dancing outlaw,” White Lightnin’ is a white-trash psychobilly nightmare … Forget the celebrities at Studio 54, the real place to be was Plato’s Retreat, where ordinary folk would spend their nights having sex with a gleefully free abandon previously unheard of in the modern world – captured in American Swing … and PornDogs: The Adventures of Sadie, less said the better. But this sampling doesn’t do the program full justice.

There’s Mayna Has Gone, for example, an intense about young illegal immigrant woman from an eastern country that is at war. She works as a home assistant for a married couple and their young son, Pablo. When the couple goes on a trip, Myna is left with the responsibilities for the household, including Pablo. However, one night, Pablo has an accident and Myna, who knows that she can be deported if she goes to the hospital, decides to help Pablo through alternative means. “It’s one of the most challenging and sincere films in a long time,” says Berger. “The central character of Myna is played by brilliant young unknown actress Maria Del Barrio, who had to rehearse for 3 months, the 33-minute continuous, very difficult sex scene. But as a result, the film is one that will be on everyone’s lips who see it.”

Also screening is Penelope, by Sydney filmmaker (and head of the Sydney International Film School) Ben Ferris. The film is a fresh examination of the character of Penelope from Homer’s epic, The Odyssey. She is the wife of Odysseus and waits for 20 years for him to return from the Trojan War. Set in Croatia, in a mythic time and space, the film challenges the mythological tradition with contemporary attitudes, through a re-evaluation of the role of Penelope.

"nurturing an alternative film culture"

And let’s not forget the opening night – this is where Kamahl comes in, live on stage, before the opening night film, The Yes Men Fix the World, in which Mike and Andy use their unique form of Gonzo activism to take on some of the most notorious corporations (Exxon, Mobil, Shell, Halliburton). They impersonate top executives of corporations they hate and use their momentary authority to expose the biggest criminals on the planet.

The Sydney Underground Film Festival is “dedicated to nurturing an alternative film culture through the promotion of independent and experimental films. The festival seeks to support filmmakers who operate outside established film industry infrastructures, by providing a platform for exhibition, exposure and critical discussion.

“The Festival provides a platform for exhibition, exposure and critical discussion and is organised by a committed group of filmmakers, who understand the need for a sustainable and thriving alternative film culture. The organisers are devoted to renewing local interest in independent and experimental film as part of an international underground film culture.

“The festival will only program unique, quality independent films that transgress the status quo and challenge the conservative conventions of filmmaking. The festival aims to change an engrained culture of cinematic complacency and revitalize an enthusiasm for cinema.

"every established film industry thrives against a subversive force"

“Our philosophy is formed from an understanding that every established film industry thrives against a subversive force. Historically, it has always been the marginal movements in film culture, which eventually influences mainstream film forms. Opposition is a necessary tension that promotes growth and artistic diversity in all film cultures and subcultures. Sadly, the Australian film industry has very little resistance against established commercial and regulated film production.

“So in stating this, our intention is to promote a culture of resistance, simply by nurturing artistic diversity and experimentation in film, rather than maintaining an adversarial position against established infrastructures (as much as we may disagree with them). We believe that discussion, dialectic and diversity is the means by which the Australian film industry can be strengthened and sustained.”

Published September 3, 2009

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Mayna Has Gone

September 10 – 13, 2009
The Factory Theatre
105 Victoria Road, Marrickville


The Yes Men


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