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REVELATION FILM FEST Documentaries under review

After being moved from its regular date in the middle of the year
due to the whole coronavirus situation, Revelation Perth International Film festival finally makes its return this week, running from Wednesday, December 9 until Sunday, December 13 (and until Sunday, December 20 in an online capacity). One thing that hasn’t changed is that Rev has once again brought us a great selection of films for the big screen, including a cut of some of the finest, funnest, and hard-hitting documentaries you’ll see this year (get screening times at X-Press Film Editor DAVID MORGAN-BROWN takes a look at some of the docos that have got everyone talking in 2020.

Underground Inc.
Directed by Shaun Katz


The likes of Nirvana, Pixies, and Nine Inch Nails paved the way for alternative rock with their own huge successes, but as this doco makes clear from the beginning, this is not about them. This is about all the smaller bands, who may have found brief success with the explosion of popularity in this genre, but it was all short lived and left only a handful of these bands remaining active.

Within ten minutes, the film is name dropping a bunch of bands that have likely been long forgotten, courtesy of the enthusiastic interviewees, made up of the musicians that populated this scene. As we see these bands eventually garner mainstream success, a fascinating juxtaposition emerges as we see these outsider bands suddenly becoming insiders with their bigger budgeted music and videos.

There’s a brief moment spent on how these bands were influenced by the political state of the 90s, though it seems they were more influenced by music itself, satirising the mainstream genres so they were playing something new. Whether or not you think the music had (or still has) merit, Underground Inc. is just about the perfect doco for this genre because it shows nothing but love for this little world of music, the kind of environment it spawned, and how these kinds of obsessed musicians navigated the tricky realms of corporate labels.

Desert One
Directed by Barbara Kopple


Putting a focus on a rescue team during the Iran Hostage Crisis of 1980, this documentary chronicles the best intentions of this Delta Force mission that unfortunately went terribly awry and devolved into a clusterfuck. The documentary has no shortage of interviewees, speaking with the hostages, the soldiers in this operation, widows of those deceased, and even the US President at the time Jimmy Carter offers his story, feeling utterly disappointed by the operation’s failure, which likely lead to him losing the re-election that was occurring at the time.

Desert One shows the messiness of the operation through animated segments (with animation appropriately reminiscent of Waltz with Bashir) to portray how despite their valiant efforts and the preparation at hand, the mission still fell foul to bad chance and luck. It’s a crushing documentary, yet one that shows young men who bravely took on this mission and tried their utmost to carry it out.

My Rembrandt
Directed by Oeke Hoogendijk


As you might be able to gauge from the title, this is about the joys of art collection, particularly with paintings from such a renowned artist as Rembrandt. This doco also covers the quest to verify the authenticity of such works, and it’s here where the story takes a turn, showing the bitterness and cattiness behind the scenes.

My Rembrandt is still an even-handed doco, treating all subjects with the same respect, as it remains fairly objective with each person in this world it shows, not bothering with too much doco trickery. The film is an opportunity to dive into the delicate world of art collection, where it’s not just the paintings, but also the fellow art collectors around you that need to be handled with care.

You Don’t Nomi
Directed by Jeffrey McHale


Showgirls, which won the Razzie Awards for Worst Picture of the Year in 1996 and Worst Picture of the 90s, is actually an amazing film. It may have taken a decade or two to come to this conclusion, but this documentary shows the initial criticism the film was swamped with, and then later the positive re-evaluation it always deserved. Through books and stage-play renditions, the cult of Showgirls has blossomed over the years, particularly in queer and drag communities, where the film’s star, Nomi Malone, has become an icon.

You Don’t Nomi does get a bit lost in the wild terrain of varied criticism this film generated, taking the focus away from the film itself and onto the inspired fans. It includes footage of the Showgirls’ Razzie successes and its word-for-word stage-play rendition, but what is most interesting is this Rorschach Test of a film, something that can garner just about any conceivable response. Better still, this one-time screening of You Don’t Nomi will be accompanied afterwards with a special screening of Showgirls so you can discover, or possibly revise, your own perception of the cult classic.

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