Healesville’s Memo Hall hosted the 2021 Healesville Mini Film Festival on April 11 and featured three acclaimed films from smaller countries, and saw a large turn-out even amid present restrictions.
The program consisted of the Afghan-French animation The Swallows of Kabul, the Thai-Australian thriller Buoyancy and the Palestinian comedy It Must Be Heaven, all of which were well-received.
The Swallows of Kabul and Buoyancy are gripping, confronting explorations of dehumanisation, but in different directions.
The Swallows of Kabul, set in Taliban-occupied Kabul during the nineties, is a sombre drama about honour and redemption in an oppressive regime. The voice acting and sound design are superb, and the animation has a beautiful rough watercolour style, but the facial expressions look somewhat vacant.
Buoyancy, directed by Australian filmmaker Rodd Rathjen, is a riveting thriller about a Cambodian boy who grows cruel to survive after being sold into slavery. Rathjen generates a constant sense of danger, isolation and helplessness within the fishing ship setting, and young star Sarm Heng shows remarkable range and maturity as his persona darkens. The only notable issues are an underdeveloped supporting character and an abrupt ending.
It Must Be Heaven is the black sheep of the trio: a tedious, plodding comedy by Palestinian director Elia Suleiman.
It Must Be Heaven has strong echoes of French director Jacques Tati’s 1958 comedy Mon Oncle, with a mild-mannered protagonist of few words and a satirical tone, but also shares many of Mon Oncle’s fatal flaws. The pacing is slow and sparse, with plenty of scenes that go nowhere, and the fanciful scenarios are generally too absurd (and Suleiman, who stars as himself, is too wooden) to draw any meaningful parallels between life in Palestine and Paris or New York.
Some of the humour is also rather mean-spirited, including a scene of wasted charity with a homeless person, Suleiman acting needlessly rude toward a confused Japanese couple, and a homophobic gag involving a leery queue-jumper.
The 2021 Healesville Mini Film Festival contained two excellent films and one dud, but it was still a very successful community event and a welcome respite from the day’s rainy weather.
Full disclosure: the author of this article is a YRFS committee member, but had no involvement in organising the Mini Film Festival