A SUFF selection - 2019


Them That Follow

Friday, September 13th, 8.30pm (Cinema 1)

Brittany Poulton and Daniel Savage have written and directed their first feature, set in the deep religious heart of Appalachia where white lightnin’ strikes the fear of God into anyone who strays from the path of righteousness. This is a drama fashioned with the rough edges of an atmospheric thriller, and a fine effort it is.

Mara (Alice Englebert) is the dutiful daughter of the local pastor, Lemeul (Walter Goggins), who holds fort in his church clutching the bible in one hand and handling deadly snakes in the other. The serpent is powerful in this community, and its bite will soon be felt, for Mara is harbouring a deep and dangerous secret. She’s involved with Augie (Thomas Mann), who has strayed from the church, yet she’s being betrothed to devout Garrett (Lewis Pullman). There’s gonna be tears well before bedtime. 

I do love a good fundamentalist tragedy set in the woods, and Them That Follow is a powerful tale of morality and the loss of faith, and although the climax doesn’t quite hit the high marks it hopes to, the journey is strong and consistent, the performances excellent - especially Australian Englebert, Goggins, and Olivia Colman as Hope, the woman desperate to save a nasty situation. 


Underground Inc: The Rise & Fall of Alternative Rock

Friday, September 13th, 8.30pm (Cinema 4)

A documentary tracing the trajectory of 90s alternative rock after Nirvana’s meteoric rise to fame. But, as the opening blurb states, this doco is not telling Nirvana’s story. And it’s not telling Pearl Jam’s or Soundgarden’s or Jane’s Addiction’s story either. This is mostly about the bands that almost never got to release their second album. Talented bands that were signed to a label and dropped unceremoniously within a couple of years. This is the story of US corporate greed within the music industry. Nothing new, that greed has always been there, but the 90s alternative rock scene happened while the internet was still a baby. It was a very different scene. And while the bands struggled, as Matt Tecu from the band Dig says, “There’s only one Keith Richards and 100,000 boys died trying to be Keith Richards.” 

Australian filmmaker Shaun Katz has put together a swift and blistering account of what went down. An impressive line-up of musicians and industry folk spill the beans, talk turkey, dish the goss, and provide the lowdown, including members of Sugartooth, Cop Shoot Cop, Jawbox, Biohazard, Only Living Witness, Stegosaurus, Big Black, Primus, Clutch, Filter, and many more. Special nod to Walter A. Kibby II from Fishbone, and Helmet’s Peter Mengede as two of the documentary’s fountains of wisdom.

Adding great flavour to the documentary, which is essentially talking heads and clips and stills of the bands at play, is animation from JB Sapienza, who also co-edited. The wild graphics, including pertinent quotes, also adds a subversive, slightly satirical edge to the documentary. Even if alternative hard rock - the younger punk rock kids - isn’t your grab bag, this doco is a fascinating nostalgic date stamp on an incredibly furtive time in American rock history, and a wee life lesson for the budding rock stars of today; if you put your soul into it, you’ve already making it. 



Friday, September 13th, 10.30pm (Cinema 1) & Saturday, September 14th, 6pm (Cinema 2)

According to director Bruce MacDonald (who made Hellions, one of my fave horror movies of recent yearsthe premise to his latest, a strange, blackly comic hybrid flick, is “On the night of the strangest wedding in cinema history, a grotesque gang boss hires a stone cold killer to bring him the finger of a fading, drug-addicted jazz legend.” Well, yes, this is true, but Deamland is much more than that. It’s a Lynchian romp that refuses to play by the rules, pulling you along with its colourful nightmare logic. Written by Tony Burgess and Patrick Whistler, it’s a story that almost defies description. You simply watch it unfold. 

The always excellent Stephen McHattie plays a dual role, that of Johnny, a cool-as-a-cucumber hitman, and the acclaimed trumpet player, the object of Johnny’s kill job. Henry Rollins attempts to chew the scenery as gangster Hercules, who enlists Johnny’s services, whilst Juliette Lewis (where has she been hiding??) hams it up as a Countess, and as it’s an American-Canadian co-production with Luxembourg and Belgium, there’s a slew of Euro actors in support roles. 

Dreamland’s a rich and gamey affair with striking imagery and a dark sense of humour, fitting snugly into MacDonald’s oeuvre of idiosyncratic genre outings. 


Fuck You All: The Uwe Boll Story

Saturday, September 15th, 10pm (Cinema 2)

If you haven’t heard of German director Uwe (pronounced Oover) Boll, then you probably need to see this documentary. If you know who Uwe Boll is you definitely need to see this doco. It’s an absolute hoot. A fascinating portrait of a filmmaker who has “enjoyed” being labeled the worst director in the world for quite some time. Of course that label is highly contentious. There are far worse movies out there. But Boll has made a whole bunch of ‘em and he has a habit of speaking out against the haters. 

The title is apt. Boll is completely open, he has no filter, as everyone who has worked with him agrees. He speaks his mind, he’s not afraid to call a spade a spade, and, of course, he’s the pot calling the kettle black. There’s only so much incompetence and belligerency you can deliver before the whole world turns against you. But Boll has managed a directing career for twenty-five years, making some thirty-three movies. But his real skill is not directing, it’s producing. He has managed to squeeze funds from his homeland for feature after feature after feature. Quite the feat. But post 2010, the film industry landscape changed irrevocably with the demise of DVD sales. Boll had to re-consider his career. 

Documentary filmmaker Sean Patrick Shaul has made a thoroughly entertaining piece. All those that are interviewed have enjoyed working with Boll, despite his shortcomings. So he makes absolute rubbish, but for most of his career he’s released movies (mostly straight-to-DVD) that have turned a profit. It enabled him to open a flashy, fine dining Bavarian restaurant in Vancouver. But let’s not forget this is also the man who organised a boxing match challenge with all the critics game enough to step into the ring. The stunt did him no favours, even though his amateur boxing skills meant he pummelled all those stupid enough to oppose him. It’s all part of the trials and tribulations of this renegade trashmeister. 

For more details and tickets for the Sydney Underground Film Festival please here.