Some of Australia’s strongest new independent films will be seen on the big screen in Ballarat, including a portrait of one of Australia’s most controversial modern artists.
The Melbourne International Film Festival’s Travelling Showcase will be arriving this weekend, with The Age Critics’ Award winner for best Australian feature, Acute Misfortune, screening on Friday night with a director’s Q&A afterward.
Acute Misfortune chronicles the fractured last years of Archibald Prize winner Adam Cullen, and his fraught, violent relationship with his biographer, the 19-year-old journalistic wunderkind Erik Jensen, founding editor of the Saturday Paper.
Cullen, who garnered critical and popular acclaim for his 2000 portrait of actor David Wenham in The Boys, was as long-time alcoholic and drug addict. He had swastika tattoos and a penchant for shotguns, and the film is peppered with nods to his abusive relationships with women.
According to The Conversation, associate Professor Joanna Mendelssohn from the College of Fine Arts at the University of New South Wales said Cullen’s most distinctive quality as an artist “was the way in which he openly and joyously indulged in “borderlining” – seeing how far he could get away with irritating the hierarchy”.
Based on Jensen’s 2014 novelised biography, and co-written by the journalist, the film is written and directed by Australian actor and theatrical director Thomas M. Wright.
Wright said the film came together after he read an excerpt of the book in a weekend paper, after which he “flew into a rage”, feeling an artistic indignation about what he’d read.
“I felt like the perspective, the voice of the author, was really interesting and really raised a lot of questions for me,” he said.
“Let alone Adam’s behaviour, it’s very easy to focus on the obvious sensationalism of Adam’s behaviour … how he represented himself, most of us just can’t agree with, but it’s a cultural space that’s been created for someone like Adam.
“He was sort of purpose built to fit into that idea.”
The biography of Adam which Erik wrote could be seen as an act of revenge, at its very worst, and then at the other polar end of that could be seen as an act of dedication.Acute Misfortune director Thomas M. Wright
Other films travelling to Ballarat include The Coming Back Out Ball Movie (September 16), which documents a gala for older LGBTI people held during Australia’s divisive marriage equality vote.
The Eulogy (September 15) is driven by former Prime Minister Paul Keating’s speech for Geoffrey Tozer, while the investigative documentary Undermined: Tales From The Kimberley (September 15) probes the environmental and cultural impacts of development in one of Australia’s most beautiful areas.
MIFF artistic director Michelle Carey said the regional tour’s focus was “really on the new Australian films” financed by the festival’s Premiere Fund.
“It’s really about getting those films that people will very much likely not be able to see on the big screen out there to the cinemas,” she said. “The four films coming to Ballarat this weekend are very diverse … we hope people find something to love this year.”