Grandma Lo-Fi star Sigridur Nielsdottir.WHEN Meryl Streep strutted on to cinema screens as Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, a role based on the apparently inimitable Vogue editor Anna Wintour, she was lauded for her exacting nature, fabulous wardrobe and ability to read the politics of consumerism into shades of blue. But Wintour was not the first designer-clad taste maker of her kind. She followed in the stiletto-marked pathway of Diana Vreeland, a character as colourful and animated as the pages of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue she edited, who herself inspired films (Funny Face; Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?) and musicals (off-Broadway’s Full Gallop), and thought nothing of having Veruschka pose for a shoot in the African savannah painted like a cheetah on the hunt.
An engrossing portrait of a life remembered in vivid ”faction” (”why let details ruin a good story?”), Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel screens next week as part of the Melbourne Festival’s inaugural film program. Why does Melbourne Festival need a film program? Curator Richard Moore, the former Melbourne International Film Festival director, says the reason is simple: people need to be reminded that, well, ”art matters”.
Indeed, in The Love of Books: A Sarajevo Story, it matters so much it’s worth risking sniper fire to save it. The film tells the story of citizens who, during the siege of Sarajevo in 1992, crossed the frontline to save 10,067 handwritten Islamic manuscripts from destruction.
In Arirang, which won the Un Certain Regard at Cannes last year, Korean filmmaker Kim Ki-duk contemplates a different kind of battle: his inner torment and reasons for making art after an actress nearly dies on one of his film sets.
The artists in Moore’s program span a plethora of disciplines – opera, theatre, music, dance – and come in all ages, shapes and sizes. In the case of Grandma Lo-Fi – an endearing portrait of Sigridur Nielsdottir, the grandmother who launched her music career aged 70 and in the ensuing eight years recorded 59 albums and almost 700 songs – art is less a path to stardom than a chance to unleash one’s inner creativity. Moore saw the film at CPH: Dox in Denmark – one of Europe’s largest documentary film festivals – and was charmed by the tale of a spirited woman who wanders about her small apartment making songs with kitchen implements: an egg slicer serves as a harp; a tap and a jug as a waterfall. She records them on second-hand audio cassettes donated by a friend who works in a local library.
A cult icon in Iceland, Nielsdottir draws her album covers in coloured pencil and has inspired young musicians to follow her homespun endeavours – a handful of Icelandic indie stars narrate the film pictured inside collages she’s made from illustrations and magazine cut-outs. Moore calls it a ”celebration of life, creativity and music”: ”If you’re 70 and still creating, how wonderful is that?”
Feisty women feature throughout the program, from About Face, in which supermodels from the 1950s to the 1970s, such as Isabella Rossellini, Jerry Hall and Carmen Dell’Orefice, recount their experiences of growing up and working in the fashion industry, to Turning, a heartfelt tribute to 13 New York women by Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons. A collaboration with Charles Atlas, whose Hail the New Puritan and Ocean also appear on the program, Turning is a compelling meditation on gender, identity and belonging.
Fans of Andrew Bird, of which Melbourne has many, will relish Fever Year, which follows the artist through a frantic year of touring across the US. Battling exhaustion and fatigue, Bird limps from stage to hotel room describing his creative process and ailments as he goes. His lighter moments arise on the family farm, where he pads about in colourful socks and composes songs that capture the wide-open expanses of the countryside; a sense of space he can take back to the city when he performs. His journey makes a neat counterpoint to Last Days Here, which follows the struggles of death-metal musician Bobby Liebling.
Moore says he wasn’t daunted when Melbourne Festival artistic director Brett Sheehy issued his invitation to curate the program: Melbourne may have a surfeit of film festivals, but designing a program that demonstrates why art is crucial to our daily lives seemed a challenge worth rising to.
”Before MIFF, I was an executive producer in arts at ABC … [and these] were exactly the kinds of films I would have screened. There’s such a dearth of arts television and arts films being shown in Australia; screening them in the context of a festival makes a statement. Calling the program Art Matters is deliberate. I do think it does matter, but you have to keep explaining that to people, keep presenting these projects … to put stories about art out there [to show] how it matters in so many different ways in all of our lives.”
■Screenings begin October 12. melbournefestival南京夜网.au
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.