The 2010 Other Film Festival, screening in Melbourne from Wednesday 25 to Sunday 29 August at Melbourne Museum, is a festival focusing on people with disabilities. I’ve been fortunate to preview two excellent documentaries that are highly recommended:
German filmmaker Niko von Glasow was born with malformed arms due to the side effects of thalidomide, a sedative prescribed to pregnant women in the late 1950s. Von Glasow’s film documents the process of putting together a nude photo shoot for himself and eleven other thalidomide affected people, many of who talk about their negative experiences being starred at. By taking part in the professionally produced and exhibited photo shoot, these people not only familiarises the onlooker with their condition but they also empowering themselves by setting the agenda under which they are looked at.
Von Glasow delves into the lives and motivations behind the various participants and uncovers various feelings of frustration, bitterness and anger. However, what makes Nobody’s Perfect such a strong film is the tremendous energy and humour that dominates. Von Glasow encourages everybody to be extremely frank about issues such as insecurity, guilt, depression and self-doubt, and he is certainly extremely frank himself. The results are frequently very wicked observations and self-deprecating humour. Nobody’s Perfect is a film that succeeds on many levels as while it is partially an awareness-raising film it is also tremendously fun and that’s mainly due to the eclectic bunch of people who reveal themselves physically and emotionally.
Hilari Scarl’s documentary follows four hearing impaired performers. There’s the popular deaf comic CJ Jones who wants mainstream recognition, struggling actor Robert DeMayo and Bob Hiltermann, the drummer in the deaf rock band Beethoven’s Nightmare. The most interesting story is that of TL Forsberg, a goth rock singer/songwriter whose relatively high level of hearing means that she struggles for acceptance within some aspects of the deaf community.
It is always fascinating having an insight into what makes people with an urge to perform tick, especially when you get to see how they juggle their artistic temperaments with the realities of everyday life. You certainly get a strong sense of this dynamic in See What I’m Saying across the four stories but you also get the added element of seeing the particular challenges that is faced by hearing impaired people. Scarl’s film also provides a wonderful insight into deaf culture so that See What I’m Saying is very much an inspirational and celebratory film. Jones, DeMayo, Hiltermann and Forsberg are all tremendously charismatic and talented performers, and you really get a sense of both their disappointments but also their triumphs.
As for other films screening at the festival, Josh Nelson from Philmology has recommended The Sunshine Boy and Rita to me and Tara Judah’s preview of the festival at Liminal Vision also contains several great recommendations.