Tag Archives: Sydney Film Festival

500 people: Week 40

See this post for a brief description of my 500 People challenge.

This has been the second week of the Sydney Film Festival, at one session of which I found myself seated next to the chap from encounter Nº 14 in my last post in this series (link here). We took up our conversation where we’d left off. But there were more new encounters, most of them fleeting.

1. Saturday night 13 November, in a rare nighttime outing, we had another pleasant conversation with another Sydney Film Festival-goer. She and her partner had choctops, the first time in many months she said, and regretted it instantly. We had one film in common – Quo Vadis, Aida?, which we all loved – but in general they had been a lot less lucky than we had in their choice of movies.

2–4. Thursday, I was in our local pool with Ruby. A swimming class was in full swing in the other half of the small pool. A little girl came from the class to play in our area with a woman who was clearly her grandmother. There were only four of us in this part of the pool. I said, by way of an invitation to chat, ‘It’s hard work, but we seem to be managing.’ She accepted the invitation with something equally inane. But the little girl seized the opportunity: she told me her name (A–), her age (four and a half), her pets’ names, where her mother was (at home), and quite a lot more. Her best line was, “I’ve just been in the swimming class, and now I can swim.’ Her grandmother, sensing that Ruby was feeling sidelined, eventually broke into the conversation. We agreed that A– liked to chat, and that it was a good thing there were no skeletons in the family closet. A little later the Emerging Artist joined us, and our two groups reconnected when the other grandmother called the EA by name: they knew each other from a long way back, and it’s true you can’t take the EA anywhere without somebody knowing her (I’m thinking of museums in Manhattan and Istanbul, for example). Anyhow, the third encounter in this batch was with A–’s grandfather, who had been walking around the perimeter of the pool. When I got out, he was supervising A– in the shallow pool. I tried the same opening that had worked so well with his wife, ‘Hard work but we seem to be managing.’ He looked at me as if I was slightly daft and slightly annoying – but I’m including him anyhow.

5. During the same swim on Thursday, when the swimming class was over, a lane of the small pool was roped off and a woman who used a wheel chair was helped into that lane by two other women. With great difficulty, they helped her walk the length of the pool, and then to float and kick. They spoke in what I took to be Vietnamese, and the woman who was being helped – perhaps she’d had a stroke – made quite a lot of nonverbal noise, as well as speaking very softly to her companions. Ruby was fascinated. I was reminded of Andy Jackson’s poem ‘The Change Room’ as I tried to answer her questions. The best I could manage was to make eye contact with the woman: she gave me and Ruby the V sign, and managed a smile.

Running total is 252. I’ve passed the halfway mark.

500 people: Week 39

See this post for a brief description of my 500 People challenge.

This has been the second week of the Sydney Film Festival, at one session of which I found myself seated next to the chap from encounter Nº 14 in my last post in this series (link here). We took up our conversation where we’d left off. But there were more new encounters, most of them fleeting.

1. Sunday morning 7 November, we came across a ‘cupboard house’ in the park near our place. Someone has created this prototype shelter for a homeless person from a discarded cupboard, put it up in our park and asked for feedback on Insta at old.butstillgood. We were admiring it when another person arrived, ready for a chat. Once we’d negotiated the awkward ideological difference – he said, ‘There aren’t any homeless really,’ a comment which we ignored – we admired the handiwork, opened the cupboard door together, and commented on basic bedding inside. We swapped news about the shameful amount of old furniture going to waste, and also about what each of us had noticed about homeless people who live in the park and their complex relationships to authority.

Photo by Penny Ryan

2. Tuesday. During the Sydney Film Festival, the Emerging Artist and I are making sure we get some exercise by walking to most of our films – abut a 90 minute walk when the movie is on in the city. On this morning, a little before 9 am, we met a woman carrying a small child – school age, but no older than seven – pietà-like, except that the child was struggling and the woman was doing her best to run. As she approached us she was saying to the child, ‘If you knock me over we’ll be late.’ She then noticed us, and we must have both looked we’ve-been-there friendly. She rolled her eyes in mock despair, or maybe real but good-natured despair, and hurried on her way.

3. Friday morning, I met the young man who had constructed the cupboard house we saw on Monday. He was taking it apart in the yard of a block of flats near the park. It turned out that the Council had emailed instructing him to remove it, he had wheeled it to this small concrete yard, where it had attracted the indignant attention of the landlord who demanded its immediate removal. As it happened, someone was sleeping in it at the time and rain was pouring down, so he – the creator – insisted on waiting until this morning to remove it. He said that someone had slept in it every night it was in the park, and that a small group of uni students had used it as a drinking and smoking room, burning a hole in the tarp while the homeless man was outside. I made generally sympathetic noises: he has no illusions that his little project is a solution to homelessness, but it has provided shelter to one man for several nights, and may have some kind of future.

4. Again on Friday morning, back in the sauna, where before the last lockdown there was a limit of three people at a time, now the limit is two. When I arrived there was one other man there. I said, ‘You have to be lucky with your timing these days.’ Neither of us was keen for a proper conversation, but we agreed that it was odd that the limit had been decreased, speculated on the reasons and agreed that the regulation was likely to be ignored anyhow. A little later, a third man joined us. All three of us sat in total silence for about 90 seconds, and hen the left. ‘Typical,’ my new friend said. ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘no stamina.’ ‘And no regard for the rules,’ he said. And we went back into our separate sweatinesses.

5. Saturday, again on our way to the Film Festival, we stopped for breakfast at Zenius, a little cafe in Chippendale. It’s a rare treat for us to have breakfast out, especially in Covid times, and we both breakfasts were excellent – an avo and mash and a granola with fruit pieces.Our host/waiter was a bit taken aback by the enthusiastic praise we heaped on him and his cook. He asked if we lived nearby, and we responded that sadly no, we were just passing through, walking to town from Marrickville.

Running total is 247.

November verse 3.5: Cento

According to poets.org:

the cento (or collage poem) is a poetic form composed entirely of lines from poems by other poets.

You might think the name has something to do with the Latin for 100, and maybe it does, remotely, but it is actually a Latin word in its own right. According to my trusty Gepp & Haigh Latin dictionary, its first meaning is ‘a piece of patchwork, used for clothing, or as a fireproof curtain or blanket, or as a quilt, etc’.

Here’s a cento made, not from other poems, but from the program description of films I’ve got tickets for in this year’s Sydney Film Festival:

At the movies: a cento
Impressed by Einstein, 
a Swiss businessman and a Russian oligarch
are compelled to
violence, incompetence and oppression.
There are death threats,
more direct and more stridently critical,
a timely reminder of 
the role of individuals in an autocratic state.
An uncommunicative young woman
becomes increasingly desperate as she manoeuvres to keep
slapstick humour and deep emotion
with integrity and grit.
They begin to make sense of
life and death in the nuclear age.

500 people: Weeks 35 to 38

See this post for a brief description of my 500 People challenge.

In the four weeks after lockdown eased, I didn’t manage to be any more gregarious with new people.

1 & 2. Wednesday 13 October. Masked and flashing my vaccination certificate, I stepped into a non-essential retail shop for the first time in many weeks. My mission was to buy new shoes to replace my much loved, double patched and disintegrating old pair. I’d tried to buy a pair online, but had to return them because they just didn’t work. The two people working in the shop were fabulous: they were helpful and informative, and we also got to chat about the state of things. They don’t expect retail in the city to be back to the old normal any time this year; they too have suffered from the lack of barbers/hairdressers – the man removed his mask briefly to reveal a splendid beard which is due for the chop and which, he said, he has to shampoo daily so as not to make his mask smell vile.

3. Monday 18 October. In another post-lockdown first, I went to a movie in an actual cinema. Just a few days after I’d told someone I wasn’t interested in Marvel movies, I went to see Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which actually doesn’t look like a Marvel movie, at least for the first two thirds. It was wonderful to be in a temporary community watching a film for the first time in months. There was a silent moment of mutual recognition when no one moved at the start of the credits – a sign that we all knew what to expect from a Marvel movie. Maybe a quarter of the audience left after a brief postscript that came on a couple of minutes into the credits, but most of us stayed to the bitter end. As the final logos rolled up the screen, I said to the woman nearest me (a Covid-safe distance away and masked), ‘They sure make you wait!’ Just as the final scene was firing up, she said, ‘Every time!’

4. Sunday 24 October. On our morning walk by the Cooks river, we passed a young man, possibly Aboriginal, fishing with a rod and line. I seized the moment: ‘Had any luck?’ Yes, he had caught five flathead, and two had got away. I asked if he ate them. ‘No,’ he said, ‘not from here. I just do catch-and-release, strictly for fun.’ I expressed a hope that the river would be clean enough one day for fish to be edible again. He agreed, but said that would mean the river would be fished out, like a couple of less polluted places nearby.

5. Saturday night, the Emerging Artist and I broke out, walked to town, had our first meal out in a very long time, and went to the theatre. Not only the theatre, but a musical in a big theatre – Come From Away at the Capitol in Sydney’s Haymarket, where I hadn’t been since I saw Hair there in the 1970s. It was wonderful to be with a big crowd, feeling things together. I attempted to start a conversation with the man I was sitting next to, and although he wasn’t having any of it, I’m counting this failed attempt as one of my 500 conversations.

6. Sunday 31 October. In another reopening adventure, I was drawn to a display of hats at the Addison Road markets. The object on my head was unpleasantly sweat-stained, ragged-rimmed and badly misshapen. As I entered the booth, the merchant said, ‘I’m sorry, sir, but I don’t offer trade-ins.’ This got us off to a good start, and we had a pleasant chat about hats, specifically the kind I like to wear. I left with a new one.

7. Near our flat a little later on Sunday, we passed a man with a little boy, possibly 18 months old. The man was barefoot, so probably lives nearby. From a reasonable distance, we saw the man, almost certainly the boy’s father, rub his hand affectionately over the boy’s head as he spoke to him from his great height. As we got close, we realised that the little boy was tearful. The man picked him up, carried him pietà-style for a little, then put him back down on his feet. By this time we were within talking distance. I said something, or maybe I just smiled, and the man responded, ‘He’s unhappy today. Something is going on.’ There was a tiny bit more to the conversation, but I was struck once again by the changes that have happened in parenting in the last hallf century: that man spoke to a neighbour-stranger like an engaged parent as if fatherly engagement was completely normal. When I was a father of infants, I was asked more than once if I was babysitting – unthinkable that the father would be simply being a parent.

8 & 9. I wouldn’t include these encounters, but since there were two of them I’m telling you about them. Within days of each other, a passing man has commented on my T-shirt. The first time was on our usual walk at the Cooks river, and I was wearing a T-shirt with semi-abstract images of bright birds. The second time, I had just walked past a couple of Council vehicles. A man in yellow jacket came up behind me from one of them and as he passed, said, ‘I like your T-shirt.’ To save me the trouble of looking down, he added, ‘The periodic table.’ And so it was.

10. On Wednesday morning 3 November, a little after 9 o’clock, we passed a young man sitting under a tree near Enmore TAFE with a baby standing in his lap, gripping his fingers and pulling themselves upright. We made smiling contact with the man and locked eyes briefly with the baby. ‘Nearly standing up,’ I said inanely. ‘Getting dangerous,’ the man said.

11. Thursday morning, we passed a woman who was grooming her dog. By grooming, I mean she was rubbing her hand over the dog’s back and releasing astonishing cascades of fur. I stopped to comment, admiringly, that she was removing so much fur with her bare hand. She said he produced huge amounts. He was a cross beagle and cattle dog, with the double coat (I didn’t understand that term but didn’t pursue it). I chatted a little about cattle dogs from my childhood that were outside dogs, then we all commiserated about how much work these shedding creatures make. Luckily, our interlocutor’s floors are all polished wood.

12. Thursday, on the same walk, we passed a group of old men teeing off at the point where the riverside walk climbs to the teeing ground. One of them said to a man who was about to swing, ‘Patience is a virtue. Wait for these good people to pass.’ We thanked them, and once we were safely behind them, I said, ‘My mother used to say, “Patience is a virtue, possess it if you can, found seldom in a woman and never in a man.”‘ Surprisingly, the little verse wasn’t familiar to any of the men, nor to the Emerging Artist. Maybe those old men weren’t as old as me.

13. The Sydney Film Festival is on! On Thursday evening, I chatted in a celebratory kind of way with the woman sitting a Covid-safe two seats from me.

14. Saturday morning, before Quo Vadis, Aida, I struck up a conversation with man seated right next to me. We exchanged news and views abut the movies each of us had seen – there were no overlaps. It turns out that we lived a couple of blocks apart a couple of decades ago. he now lives near Wollongong and makes a pilgrimage with his wife each year for the Festival. In the movie, there’s a horrific moment when people are ordered to leave a place of refuge quietly, five at a time, and we’r pretty sure they’re going to their death. As the credits rolled we were asked to bear Covid restrictions in mind and to leave in a =n orderly manner. My new acquaintance and I said, in unison, ‘Five at a time.’

Running total is 242.

SFF: Dendys etc

If you had told me 15 years ago when my Elder Brilliant Offspring was 20 years old that he and I would write a short film together that he would go on to direct, and that the film would be a finalist in the Dendy Awards … Well, you wouldn’t have.

Having Ngurrumbang screened at two sold out sessions at the Sydney Film Festival has been thrilling, but it’s been a joy beyond words to have worked on this project with him. I’ve learned a huge amount from the collaboration, and from his leadership of the crew, myself included.

I’m typing this on the phone during the opening speeches of the last night of the Festival. Maybe we’ll win something. Now I’m going to pay attention. I’ll tell you if we win or lose on the comments in a couple of hours.

All set for the Sydney Film Festival

IMG_0748Much excitement in my boy-from-North-Queensland heart today when I picked up my Filmmaker Pass from the Delegates Lounge of the Sydney Film Festival.

It says on the back that it ‘is to be worn at all times during the 2013 festival’. It doesn’t get me into any movies, but I’ll try to keep you informed about what it does get me into.