Oh, goodness, film buffs listen up! We’re incredibly honoured and, appropriately, quite awe-stricken to have Jack Sargeant, Revelation Film Festival programmer and all round movie buff joining us today. Jack has had the awe-inspiring and really very tricky job of programming the Revelation Perth International Film Festival, with this year being his fifth stint in the role. I can’t even begin to fathom the amount of experience, passion and intuition required to know whether the out-of-this-world things one picks will be a hit with the audience on the night. And there are 11 nights of movie watching to fill! If you’ve ever wanted to know things such as how many movies Jack has watched in the lead up to the Rev Film Fest, and what his top picks are, then now’s your chance. Best get a read-on
I started curating and programming various art events when I was 17 or 18 – 25 odd years ago. I started out by putting on bands, spoken word events and performance art, as well as fine art, things like an exhibition of outsider art. I always felt that if you were interested in things you should make them happen rather than wait around for somebody else to do it. The old ‘punk’ DIY mentality. It’s the same way I started writing books, nobody was writing about what I was interested in reading about, so I thought: ‘why not do it myself?’ Of course, it’s a little bit more complex than that, but basically that idea of pursuing your interests and making things happen seems essential to me.
Film was obviously one of my interests and pretty early on it became apparent that if I wanted to see certain things I’d have to facilitate it. I’d have to search out movies or filmmakers I was interested in, because in many cases nobody was screening what I liked, and it spread from there. Over the years I became increasingly interested in watching, writing about and generally disseminating movies and culture that I liked, and invariably that spread into the international arena. Meeting Richard Sowada and curating a season at ACMI on punk film was sort of the start of my working for Revelation. But it goes back earlier than that because Richard knew what I was doing from way before and helped bring me to Australia the first time I came over and curated a sidebar at the Brisbane International Film Festival.
Programming an 11 day event like this is such an enormous feat! Take us through the process:
I start finding films using connections and networks in about June – seriously, 13 months before they are likely to be screened – and spend until late April or early May watching movies, when we finally lock the program. I chase loads of movies down through various networks and connections, while many others come from the call for entries. This builds up – over the year – into what we screen at Revelation. In part it’s also an organic process, as some films or filmmakers lead to more movies and directors with similar themes or concerns, and gradually this becomes the festival. There are no fixed rules or set criteria. Really it’s just about finding the work that we think is worth screening.
Still from Golden Slumbers (2011) Dir. Davy Chou, France/Cambodia.
What challenges do you face each year as programmer of the Revelation Film Festival?
The challenge is always to push somewhere new, to find those unexplored areas of cinema or areas that people may not be aware of, to seek out exciting films and so on, but also retain the Revelation atmosphere. This year we have some great films that I think will surprise people, for example WAY OF THE MORRIS about Morris Dancing and PAUL WILLIAMS STILL ALIVE about the musician Paul Williams.
Are you doing anything differently this year?
The idea of Revelation is to showcase films and filmmakers and ideas that we all like, that we think matter. On that level it hasn’t changed, it is dedicated to film and filmmakers that are passionate. Simultaneously and as part of that we always want audiences to see something new and we want ideas to flourish so that means we develop various ideas.
This year there’s an academic conference to accompany Revelation, the idea is to get people thinking and talking about movies and film and culture, and having 25 odd academics talking for two days seems an appropriate starting point. Alongside the various other public talks and so on, it all contributes to developing new ideas about cinema. Of course, these talks are open to anybody, Revelation is about access rather than exclusivity.
Simultaneously we love working with the live soundtrack accompaniments to movies and each year we develop the concept in new ways. This year we have the movies of George Melies accompanied by a jazz quartet, so it’s really something quite wonderful for the whole family and offers the opportunity to see these incredible films in a new and exciting context.
Then we have a selection of films from ECU students which again is a new thing for us, and will serve in part as a showcase of emerging local talents.
Finally we have our guests which this year includes Judith Lucy, our first Australian Patron, and Crispin Glover, so that should be great.
What is the Perth film industry scene like, and is this something you always try and reflect in your selections?
I see Relevation as curating film for the people of Perth and WA who are the main audience, but also increasingly for those who travel into the city to see movies from further afield. We program films from across the world and don’t look for any one territory or area. Of course there’s a lot of WA film represented in specialist strands of Revelation such as Get Your Shorts On and so on, but the curation is all about cinema and visual culture, not about geography. This year we have BUFF which is a local movie, we have Australian movies like THE CARETAKER and 25th REICH, as well as movies from Iceland, from America,Ireland, England, Cambodia, Denmark. There are no limits to interesting work, and the guest programmers – who include Katherine Berger and Stefan Popescu from Sydney Underground and Richard Kuipers who programs at Sydney International Film Festival as well as ScreenWest and Keith Smith from ECU – all contribute to this.
Still from Polarised Dir. Steve Fleming, which will be showing as part of Get Your Shorts On
How many flicks have you had to watch to in the lead up to Rev this year?
Something like 350 features and feature length documentaries, probably more, and 100 shorts. Richard Sowada tends to watch all of the shorts and flense them down to a workable number then forwards them to me.
What films are you excited to see on the big screen at Rev Film Fest? Any standouts?
All of them. But if I have to choose I’d say SHOCK HEAD SOUL which is visually stunning and LAST DAYS OF THE ARCTIC which is very cinematic. But I’m also looking forward to hearing the sound design on films like LIVID and ARCHEO, and seeing the audience response to movies like BEAUTY IS EMBARRASSING and PAUL WILLIAMS STILL ALIVE. I’m looking forward to the Jeff Keen retrospective because it is so unique and wonderful and to 25th REICH because late at night, with an enthusiastic crowd, cranked up loud, it’ll be a blast. Of course both of Crispin Glover’s movies are fantastic and really open up so much visual and narrative territory, so that will be great too. There’s a lot to be excited about.
Still from Beauty is Embarrassing (2011) Dir. Neil Berkeley, USA.
I know this is tricky, but what is your favourite movie of all time?
This changes all the time. There’s certain films that whenever I watch them I see something else in them or the visual poetry effects me in a unique way. Werner Herzog’s AGUIRE WRATH OF GOD and FATA MORGANA, John Waters’ PINK FLAMINGOS and Kenneth Anger’s PUCE MOMENT command my attention whenever I see them. But this changes, sometimes I just become obsessed with, say, Fassbinder or David Lynch or whatever.
Any advice for film buffs aspiring to land themselves a job in the industry?
Just make films. To me it makes no difference whether you have huge budgets and the latest tech or are shooting on mobile phone cameras with no money, I have no preference for formats or stars or whatever, if a film has passion, drive, vision and so on, that’s what matters. That’s what makes me keep watching movies, that’s what I love, that’s what drives me. Jack.
Jack Sargeant, the programmer for Rev Film Fest, and one of the people that makes it all happen!
Wow! We couldn’t imagine watching that amount of movies in one year, but we do love to watch some exciting and surprising films, so we’re particularly looking forward to Revelation Film Festival. Head over here for some of our picks, or to their website for the full program and to get your tickets. And be sure to check back next week when we chat to the guys behind local doco Buff.
Images courtesy of the folks at Revelation Film Festival.