The first film was a Russian, science fiction epic called Hard to be a God. Before going in I knew it was three hours long, and I knew that it was in black and white. I also knew that it was in the Dare section of this years festival, for films that are challenging both in style and content. None of this scared me, hard-core cinema goer that I am!
However, I think this was a case of expectations not being met. The story is about a scientist who has gone to a planet just like Earth, but stuck in the Middle Ages having re-acted to the start of the Renaissance by killing all the scholars. I thought this was going to be a philosophical spin on the invasion story, looking at the challenges from the point of view of the superior alien. What actually happened was a really claustrophobic film full of stupid people shitting, sneezing, and generally being pustular and gross, with nothing to really balance it out. At the beginning the directors wife said that the film was like Marmite in the way it divided audiences. I love Marmite, I didn't love this. It did make me want to read the book, though, in case that has more of the story I was hoping to be told.
Later that same day we went to see Charlie's Country. Showing in the Journey section of the festival, it tells the story of Charlie (David Gulpilil) who becomes disenchanted with the way the Australian government are treating his community and decides to go back to living in the old ways. It's so brilliantly acted, and so well made that I became totally absorbed and sort of forgot that this was a fictional film and not a fly on the wall documentary. It really was amazing. After the film finished, the director, Rolf de Heer, came out for a Q&A and told us the story behind the making of the film, which made the whole thing even more astonishing and have even more resonance. The film came about after he visited David Gulpilil in prison, where he had ended up in the middle of what appeared to be a serious attempt to drink himself to death. They collaborated together to make this beautiful and touching film. Please, please, please go and see it.