MUFF Director – Richard Wolstencroft
Fuck you! For nigh on ten years MUFF has fostered an alternative voice
in Australian cinema and I can’t help but feel you all haven’t done
enough to support it! You line up dutifully at Australia’s uber-festival,
MIFF, as they peddle out the yearly multi-culturally scented ‘pot pouri’
of world cinema. I admit it…sometimes…I am with you. But when I see these
large lines at MIFF, or sold out sessions of films released two weeks later
at cinemas, I can’t help but feel what a bunch of lemmings you all are!
I don’t see nearly as many of your smiling mugs at MUFF getting a taste
of real independent, iconoclastic and daring cinema. You have your culture
fed to you
like pap from baby food jars, as you sit in your societal
Well, at MUFF we say, like Frank Booth from Blue Velvet, “Fuck that shit!”
We are bringing you uncut, uncensored, cutting edge Indy cinema with low
budgets, big ideas, gigantic ambitions and a ballsy attitude. It should
be enough to make the PC programmers at MIFF look like the bunch of pussies
that they essentially are.
I am writing this Director’s Statement up River in Northern Uganda,
near the mighty Source of the Nile herself. I have been musing on snails
crawling along straight razors, and reading Kant and TS Eliot, and thinking
about LRA leader Joseph Kony. At the same time I’ve been shooting a movie
about crazy documentarians in the field, of which I am one. Subjects before
my lens have included; real life zombies, Former Lords Resistance Army
(LRA) members and the atrocities they were forced to commit like murdering
and cannibalizing each other. Hannibal Lecter would have liked Northern
Uganda a great deal during the war. I have conversed with child soldiers,
former sex slaves, military gurus, religious leaders, heads of NGO’s, etc.
Whilst in the wild we also launched TUFF – The Traveling Uganda Film
Festival – a MUFF initiative in conjunction with Ebony Butler and Atlantic
Star Productions. TUFF is the idea of screening films free, in the open
air, in former war torn areas of Uganda and Africa, the idea being to
reintegrate people back into society via a Brian O’Blivion/Marshall McLuhan
style notion of the power of the video image. TUFF was a big success,
two full houses, and we hope to do further screenings in Africa at a
In the meantime MUFF X is here and it is a slightly reduced and rushed
affair in 2009, due to other film commitments of my own. Taking on the
mantle of this cause in 2000, when I decided to start this festival with
Rebecca Sutherland, was a rushed decision, also. It was to affect the next
decade of my life, of which MUFF 10 is the symbolic and real culmination.
Every year after MUFF I say, “Never again”… as the time I’ve put into it
I could have made a new short film, video clip or worked on a new script
or whatever. But, every year as MUFF time approaches I can’t help myself,
I get ready to do it again. I have a pathological hatred for the way the
mainstream OZ film Industry and its funding system has been run the last
twenty years. And I simply can’t help myself! I have to voice again (…one
wonders if in vain?) my unique form of criticism, display my curatorial
prowess, and offer my caustic advice.
I know this festival has not won me a lot of friends in some circles.
I’m sure, in fact I know, there are a few enemies out there who really
don’t like me, or this festival. But as Mark Savage once described me
in an interview, I am an anti-sycophant; I can’t help but feel he’s right
there. I can’t stand sucking up to the untalented, ungifted, unvisionary
and unoriginal doyens and mandarins who have run a lot of this Industry.
The good news is things are really beginning to change down under.
To hark back to the Phillip Adams harangue of last year, it’s heartening
to note that many of the 70’s Renaissance players were totally ignored
in the 60’s by what little Industry we had then.
Many of the cinematic voices MUFF has fostered have been ignored or not
given the immediate support they deserve in the 00’s. But the good news
is that these voices are not going away, in fact they are getting louder.
So, I can say here and now, that I believe we are standing at a unique
historical juncture in Australian cinema to rival that of 1970. Are we
going to step up to the plate and make the next ten years of Aussie cinema
dynamic, aggressive, successful and relevant? Or are we going to continue
to call mediocre telemovie shit like Somersault, Black Balloon, Home Song
Stories and My Year Without Sex cinematic gold and thus steal defeat from
the jaws of Victory?
The funding bodies know the story, I do think they finally get it, they
just have to be willing to change their ways. And we are here to help with
some sage advice. We have an Open Letter for you all to sign on the film
Industry that we will send to Federal Minister Peter Garret, and other
ministers, funding bodies, etc., after the festival. So what is in store
for ten years of MUFF? We have the super talented up and coming filmmaker
Steven Kastrissios (The Horseman) as our jury head. We have a packed MUFF
full of great new Aussie genre movies like Carmilla Hyde, Eraser Children
and Family Demons. We have two world firsts in our Wings Hauser and Jack
Ketchum retrospectives. We have a great new Aussie documentary Into The
Shadows on Opening Night all about the very Industry crisis of which we
speak. We have Gary Sweet starring in our Closing Night movie, The Tumbler,
directed by Industry vet Marc Gracie. We have Mini MUFF, Leni Riefenstahl,
William Castle and more. I also see former MUFF shorts filmmakers, the
Speirig Brothers, about to release their long anticipated Daybreakers -
a big budget action vampire movie with Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe.
So, as the 80’s song goes “the future’s so bright, we got to wear shades”…
An interesting question is raised, too, after ten years of MUFF; how did
a small festival with non government funding and limited financial support
manage to be the first festival in the world to play the works of the likes
of James Wan, Greg McLean, Scott Ryan, Steven Kastrissios, Stuart Simpson,
the aforementioned Speirig brothers, Dean Francis, an early MUFF stalwart
who has recently made a big budget genre piece Road Train? I could go
on...just about every important new Aussie filmmaker has had their first
films played here at MUFF. How can this be if MIFF has all this funding,
qualified selection committees and countless Accelerator, or Propeller,
or whatever absurd name they call their new talent section? How could
an upstart festival like MUFF be able to say this? The answer is simple.
When we look at a film, we not only judge the content of said film, we
try and assess the individual behind it, the talent on display with a small
budget and the potential that can be seen in it. We look at the personality
and drive of the auteur behind the film. Once we have done this we accept
the film. In fact I have played films at MUFF after only meeting the
filmmaker and liking the passion they displayed about their work. That was
enough. That’s what we look for, that spark, that creative dynamism. And
if these simple common sense ideas and respect for passion could be applied
elsewhere in the Industry, well, the Industry could be in for a boom time
to rival any small film Industry anywhere in the world.
The time is now MUFF filmmaking brethren. It’s time to put aside petty
differences and stand as one and seize destiny by the cajones. Let’s make
this God damn Australian Film Industry back into what it once was, in fact,
even surpass its heyday! We have the talent, and MUFF shows it, uncensored,
raw, here and now…
It’s going to take guts, and as Winston Churchill once said, “I have
nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.” But, if we are up
to the challenge to change this Industry with our uncompromising cinematic
visions, Victory will certainly be ours. MUFF has given me a gift over
the years…a cause worth fighting for, and for that I am grateful.
I leave you from Uganda with a quote from the great Colonial explorer
Henry Morton Stanley, who discovered Livingstone all those years ago, that
sums up exactly how I feel about the MUFF journey and its many obstacles,
“I did not see the whole. I only saw this rock ahead of me; I only saw this
poisonous snake which I had to kill in order to take the next step. I only
saw the problem directly in front of me. If I had seen the whole thing,
I would have been too overwhelmed to have attempted this.” But I am glad
I attempted it, and here as Heidegger might say, “it is”…
Enjoy the festival and join us for some sessions, and a Grolsch, to
celebrate ten years of independence and revolution in Australian cinema.
Thank You! and Best Regards
(Aka Colonel Kurtz, Idi Amin Ugandan Division)