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April, 1999
Reviews this issue include:

Reality Bites
The Matrix
She's All That
Varsity Blues
Hilary and Jackie
At First Sight
there's more, see the review index
For the latest stuff in Festivale, check out what's new
The coming attractions section has Australian release dates
A columnist, such as I (reference: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes), who develops a small, deeply disturbed following (reference: The Big Chill ), and who has the odd one or two hobby horses, such as I do, has to, from time to time, ask the regular readers to just skip a bit while the neo-readers catch up with the plot.

The bitching so far: is a sometimes acidicly sharp, sometimes rambling tirade against one of the nastiest sentences in the English (read also, cinematic) language, that is "Based on a true story". Okay.

For those of you who don't know, or haven't thought about it, here is the scoop: ALL films are based on a true story, that is, real life. Now, I'm not saying that if you look around hard enough you'll find everyone from Rhett Butler to Hans Solo, but what I am saying is that all life is grist to the mill.

Honestly, do you think that your writer friends don't sift their daily lives looking for golden grains of stories? Of course we do. Sometimes an odd exclamation makes the grade (e.g., the term "wookie" in Star Wars). Sometimes an argument generates a film in support, or against it. The writers bible for the British television series Prisoner at one point encourages writers to find what they really care about, and then write about that. If you feel strongly about a subject, then you can write a story about it.

Which brings me back to the finger-nails-on-blackboard 'based on a true story' films of recent years. Look at the current crop of films. Patch Adams is a bio-flick about a clowning doctor which has a double attraction: humour and a statement about the self-proclaimed godhood of the medical profession. On the other hand, Hilary and Jackie is a bio-flick which apologises in the promotional materials for the boring music and promises a roving camera operator to compensate. Although it has some great moments in the film (notably not during the frantic cello scenes) and strong performances, it lacks an argument -- it doesn't make a point. Thank heavens for Shakespeare in Love, which demonstrates how to use satire to make a statement, humorously couched, about show business (or any other business for that matter).

You see, the purpose of story telling is to make a point. It could be, "look at life this way", or "this behaviour is unacceptable", or it could be, "isn't this person's life inspiring"*, or "look at yourself from the outside". It can be about seeing the world through other eyes, filtered by other experiences than your own. Even cute little charming fairy tales like Star Wars have a battle of right against wrong, of belief against cynicism.

Since we started reviewing films here in October 1996, we've seen Sleepers (child abuse and revenge), Amistad (slave trading), and 54 (disco). Diana and Me managed to address the paparazzi attacks without putting a Diana-lookalike on screen, while Elizabeth, garnered a load of Oscar (R) nominations as it pissed on historical truth and people's reputations from a great height and in copious amounts. Her Majesty Mrs Brown drew a relationship from guesswork and rumour, since the real story disappeared with Mr Brown's diaries. Shine won Oscars, but the family reported distressed children at the gross portrayal of their grandfather. Do we care?Kundun received a lot of attention in Festivale, and we received blessings from readers. Kundun was our Reviewers' Film of the Year for 1998.

But we know enough stories about people who can't separate reality from Melrose Place, so when scriptwriters and other film makers play merry, disrespectful hell with real life and real people, aren't they ripping us all off? Propaganda films pushed those annoying women out of the post-war work force and back into the kitchens; and whether a mass movement or a personal gripe, or just a film maker too damn slack to think of something better, film is a powerful medium which creates temporary and permanent changes to our reality.

My point? Tell the truth, or tell a lie. Know the difference, and be honest about it. Stop mucking about and think of something worth saying. The audience deserves better.

Ali Kayn

And the list goes on: also released in April, 1999, based on a true story: At First Sight, A Civil Action, Ravenous,

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ISSN 1328-8008
Published in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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Filed: 28-Mar-1999 : Last updated: 1-Apr-1999 : Last tested: Oct-2009: Last compiled: 08-Aug-2014
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