MUFF 777

Choking on Tokenism
Director's Statement
Richard Wolstencroft

"The AFC, a wing of the Federal Government, almost solely funds a film about the refugee crisis and the problem of detention centres: the same Government that builds and maintains the detention centre system. Lets just say, I smell a big fucking rat."

"Men and Women are tired to disgust of money-economy. They hope for salvation from somewhere or other, for some real thing of honour and chivalry, of inward nobility, of unselfishness and duty." — SPENGLER

This is how it’s going to go down. We have a tighter MUFF in 06, like a diamond bullet aimed at the heart of the Australian film industry. We have Lloyd Kaufman from Troma, we’ve got Alex Spalck from Pankow heading the jury, we have great new Aussie features from Hewitt, Turley, McEvoy and Mousoulis, we have the MUFF Academy plus a solid selection of sordid sensations and cinematic assortments. Lock and load motherfuckers! MUFF 7 is here. The theme in 2006 is tokenism. Let me tell you about it.

I was at the 2006 St.Kilda Film Festival (StFF) and let me preface this by saying that I’m a fan of the festival and especially Paul Harris who runs it and does the informative and cool Film BUFF’s on RRR, in addition to writing for The Age. This text is not meant to criticise StFF per se but to bring attention to an industry-wide problem. During the opening night presentation of the films at StFF I felt, as you might say on The Soprano’s ‘A stone in my shoe’, that the stone was a strong whiff of Tokenism. What do I mean by Tokenism? Tokenism can be defined as the practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort to do something about a social or political problem. Three films stood out as Tokenistic at the St.Kilda Film Festival in my opinion. The film about the refugee father and son, the Aboriginal animation film and the Asian ladies gambling film.

How are these films tokenistic? When the AFC, a wing of the Federal Government, almost solely funds a film about the refugee crisis and the problem of detention centres. The same Government that builds and maintains the detention centre system. Lets just say, I smell a big fucking rat. When we have a polite little animated piece about Aboriginal myths and dilly bags for us all to applaud, all the while real Aborigines are ten to a room with child abuse and petrol sniffing rife. Again, this film is funded and presented by Government bodies, the same government that has been fucking the indigenous population for years. I smell a bigger fucking rat. Then we have a funny little piece about Asian ladies having fun socialising and gambling away at The Pokies at Crown or wherever. All the while funded by Governments that reap in bucket loads of cash in gambling revenue; meanwhile the Asian peoples spiritual beliefs in Numerology and luck has meant Crown and other gambling organisations have deliberately marketed to, and financially devastated, a large portion of the Asian community, leading to cases of child neglect and suicides. Again, that big fucking rat.

Didn’t anyone notice this at StFF? I guess we all get used to it. I have seen it on the rise in Australian arts culture in the last 15 years. Real social problem: aboriginal housing and social welfare. Solution: polite little animated film to make the arts crowd think everything is A-OK. Don’t forget to thank the traditional landowners of the site wherever you are! Tokenism par excellence, thank the traditional landowners of The Astor? Why not give them their fucking land back then? Tokenistic bullshit all. Really, dear reader, what a bunch of crap. Real social problem: children in detention centres (let’s un-spin this word, lets call them what they were called 60 years ago - concentration camps). Solution: polite film criticising government policy but fully funded by said government. It’s kind of like the Nazis making and funding a film criticising the excesses of say Dachua, a smart propaganda tool more cunning than Goebbels himself. A little criticism goes a long way to create the illusion of social change and democracy. This tokenism is loathsome even if you don’t agree with the actual social problem(s) under discussion or even agree that they are a problem. It is very clever though. You don’t need to create real social change, just the tokenistic veneer of social change through the arts. Their true ideological function perhaps in a capitalist state? Perhaps the real reason why funding still increases slightly for the arts under Howard? This tokenism is so much what our world is about these days. Tokenism is rampant and you see it everywhere, here and OS. We at MUFF are here to tell you that tokenism is for clowns. Hence theme, clown images, etc.

We can run further with this analysis. The Australian film industry is itself tokenistic. Giving us some half assed film lecturers’ versions of Australian culture and society all through the lens of the politically correct infrastructure that stifles everything. The whole concept of Australian content (required often to get funding) is completely tokenistic and foolish. Any film shot in Australia with a majority Australian cast will be Australian, whether we like it or not. Heidegger’s conception of throwness and historicity guarantees it for a start. One does not have to make it a programmatic mandate to be artificially and tokenisticly worked into a script. Strewth, stone the crows, mate... you get what I’m saying. As MUFF filmmakers and revolutionary cinephiles we have the duty, honour and privilege to save the Australian film industry from these committees and boards with their content graphs and programmatic charts and deliver what we do best: authentic cinematic art.

I thought later deeper into tokenism. What is the ultimate form of tokenism? Money, of course. We work and strive our whole lives for worthless token bits of plastic or paper we can exchange for things like life’s essentials and luxury items (see Sandra Sdraulig’s expense card at Film Victoria). Is this not the deeper sense of tokenism that we literally trade our lives for? The coming final collapse of capitalism (that may be a long way off yet) is the only time we can look forward and toward an opportunity to transcend these limitations on basic human existential debasement and the exploitation of our facticity. Don’t look to Marxian dialectical materialism is equally caught up in the ideas of tokenism, wages and salaries for the prole masses, we need to look beyond all this. What we need is a new non-tokenistic basis for our society. Something pure, strong, direct and authentic, something with a new philosophy. I may not agree with Rene Guenon’s lucid yet pessimistic saying on Western culture and civilization, “It is as if an organism with its head cut off were to go on living”. It may be a little time before we can awake a new elite to lead and guide humanity towards a society where tokens and their slavishness are something that appear in museums.

Signs of the end times for democracy and liberalism are all around us. Just read outstanding political philosopher Carl Schmitt’s Concept of the political and other works to understand the contemporary Politics of States of Emergency, The Enemy, Emergency and Sovereign Powers and other ideas. Whilst in Fiji holidaying with a friend in December 05, I became impassioned when reading about the local politics of Fiji and its people whilst also reading some Fitzgerald (and swimming a lot!) Here was a beautiful country run by its indigenous people, although the coups of 87 and 00 have been portrayed in such a harsh light. Over many a bowl of the real Kava with locals, I discussed the coup’s and rebels’ aims and people like George Speight; as they may relate to my own theories. I was moved by the Speightean cause and found the media’s portrayal of him and other revolutionaries in papers and books completely biased. Of course, I do not support the machete wielding antics aimed against defenceless Indian immigrants but a desire to see Fiji in the political hands of the real Fijian people’s, while treating the Indian minority with respect and tolerance seemed a noble and authentic goal, even if some revolutionaries crossed the line and forget these ideas to their shame. If only we had some form or treaty or political partnership with our own Indigenous population at the start of Australia’s colonial past instead of a rape and genocide, I think many of today’s ills would naught exist? Is it indeed not too late to reify some of these ideas for such a political partnership today?...It all provided much food for thought as did a full day trip paddling down the untouched-by-man Upper Navua river - a place where my understanding of Heidegger’s writings became more potent than before. Untouched Being.

Back to film scoops, this by the way, is almost the MUFF that never was. Yes, MUFF 7 may never have existed. Ever since starting MUFF in 2000, the looming project of my next feature has been on the cards. I have allowed MUFF to distract me at times from my mission of creating my third (or fourth, if you count ‘The Intruder’) feature. But the time is now to do something new and I nearly put MUFF off until next year to deal with the project. As usual I bit off more than I could chew and decided to just do both. The wisdom of this decision remains to be seen, but I have made MUFF a little smaller and easier to deal with from my end and I can’t foresee any major distractions or disruptions, so into the soup we go.

The appointment of Alex Spalck from Pankow as our jury head is natural and something of a coup. I have been a big Pankow fan since the late eighties. They were the only electro/industrial band that didn’t either sell out, take itself too seriously or not maintain a hardcore mix of aggression, nihilism and electronics. Anyway, I heard a rumour from the grapevine that Alex Spalck lived in Albury/Wodonga a few years back. After Muff 6, I acted on the rumours and hunted down Al pal, not in Albury/Wodonga, but not that far away from there either. We had a couple of wonderful meals made by him and his gal Debra with fine wine and we all got along like houses on fire. I then asked if he’d like to head the MUFF jury and Alex said a jubilant “yes”. Fait accompli. If you haven’t got into Pankow yet, as good ol’ Molly would say, “Do yourself a favour” and get their career spanning box set The Art of Gentle Revolution and the totally brilliant last LP “Life is offensive and refuses to apologise”. Spalck’s lyrics and FM and teams electronics are truly the best thing of its type around at present. I played them recent electro discovery The Knife and was fortunate enough to hear some of the new Pankow LP from FM, Alex, Enzo and Massimo (now being recorded partly in Northern Victoria). The signs are good that the next LP will be equally as brilliant as the last. Just remember ... each one of us has the potential to betray the revolution! Be sure to meet Alex on closing night and have a wine with him. And good luck FM and the boys with getting the album out to us hungry fans.

Oh, ok...I can’t help myself any longer...I just have to tell you about my fight with James Hewison at the St.Kilda Film Festival. This is fucking classic, where our evil non-debater James Hewison called your humble narrator “a cunt” and said I “....destroyed his faith in humanity”. Pretty fancy achievement the latter one, heh? It wasn’t Stalin or Pol Pot who destroyed James’ faith in Humanity ... it was little ol’ me. Read on. Warning: it is pretty funny. I spotted James at StFF and went over to say “hi” as you do. I complimented him on the new MIFF artwork for this year’s festival, saying that I honestly believe it is the best yet under his tenure. It’s a good dig at Hollywood (using directors as puppets) and how MIFF plays films that are against the grain in this sense. Which is all indeed true and on message and much better than that stupid lawn mower from last year and previous years efforts that are so memorable I can’t remember them...Oh there was that one that looked like an STA ad for travelling in Asia...but... I digress. Things got heated when I mentioned playing a certain film MIFF had decided not to play that we are playing at MUFF and Hewison taunted that I would announce its rejection from MIFF from the highest rooftops, he imagined. This I said I would not do and have no intention of doing from any rooftop ... except perhaps mentioning it in passing somewhere. I then tongue-in-cheek make a joke in the blackest hue about all these Iranian films he loves to play at MIFF, making it hard for the coalition of the willing (i.e. which includes our Fed Govt Howard...the people who fund MIFF partly, hint, hint: tokenism ... the point I was trying to make with said joke, that Hewison completely missed) to go to war with Iran in the future and/or bomb Iran if they need to. James then proceeded to call me “a cunt”. He also proceeded to tell me that I have made him lose his faith in humanity or some such comment to that effect and to congratulate me on doing it, no less. He also said I’m a pretty funny guy but not really. He then tried to stare me down and (...perhaps noticing the black abyss at the centre of my pupils) thought better of it. He also told me that “life is too short” and wandered off. Scouts honour, verbatim folks. If you think I’m lying bring on the polygraph, baby. James, as you can tell, was getting very hot under the collar. This incident tells me two things: one, James is perhaps losing it a little bit; ‘losing his faith in humanity’ pleeeaasse, two, we are doing our job at MUFF properly by thoroughly annoying the current director of MIFF. I have decided to up the ante (naturally) during MIFF and try to challenge James to a boxing match. Yes, the dude won’t debate me (see last years MUFF manifesto debating challenge and controversy) because he’s a c word...coward. So, maybe he’ll box me? Attend MIFF and stand in those long lines to get our publicity. Of course, James can stop being a coward and just debate me in perfectly civil surroundings and on agreed terms and all is forgiven. James and I should get along like we used to and put an end to all this nonsense, don’t you think? Otherwise, it’s Hewison vs.Wolstencroft ...The First Inaugural Film Festival Bout.

I think if people in the arts community can’t get along, they should settle it the old fashioned way ... with Violence, don’t you think? Of course, the controlled legal violence of boxing. Think of the film and TV industry bouts we can have in the future: Safran vs. Rove, Leonander vs. Stratton, Spencer vs. Pommeranz, Bob Ellis vs. Take a number...the mind boggles.

I’m going to bring this text to a close. Come to MUFF we have a great main venue - The Spanish Club - that is just ace and close to all things groovy in Brunswick street. I could say more inspirational things about how we can change the local film industry but just read Alex Spalck’s jury statement...he writes better than I do and I found this piece very inspirational. Though MUFF is about 10 sessions shorter, it is more focussed and should be a lot of fun. Make sure you meet Lloyd Kaufman. He is something of a phenomenon. And make sure you see Troma discovery Giuseppi Andrews’ two films in MUFF - they are fucking brilliant. See you all at the festival.

Best Regards
Richard Wolstencroft

PS. Anyone giving me trouble about playing my own films in MUFF should add themselves to my boxing roster and remember Free Cinema (see MUFF 6). Did anyone give Lindsay Anderson trouble about playing his own work in Free Cinema? I think not. MUFF is more than a festival; it is a movement. I am a filmmaker and festival director and I know no other fully functional filmmaker that runs a festival in Australia, but tough. At MUFF things are different and my work will be included when I deem it appropriate, so deal with it and enjoy it.

PPS. Why MUFF 777? Hunt down Crowley’s book of the same name and also Jungian writer Edward F. Edinger’s brilliant book Archetype of the Apocalypse. 777 is all around us ...