Category Archives: Film Reviews

Immigration Film Fest III

I only have two more days left on my pass, so time to watch some longer films.

My DACA Life (69 minutes)

DACA means Deferred Action for Child Arrivals, which was a Obama-era program which put a hold on deportation of young people who had arrived in America as children when their parents moved there. Because their parents did not receive official entry, their children had no documents either. This meant that they could not get a driving licence, obtain scholarships, or travel out of America. Maribel was born in Mexico, but had never been there. There she meets her extended family for the first time. Being given a one-off work permit, she is allowed to travel to Mexico and by being registered returning to America, to finally receive entry documentation. But then Trump gets in, and everything changes.

I Come from Away (58 minutes) Nyamoun Nguany Machar (aka Moon) is a 30-year old African woman who arrived in Portland, Maine with her Ethiopian mother and Sudanese father as a refugee in 1995. Portland is the second whitest state in America. She experiences racism, but nonetheless Portland manages to accommodate 600 asylum seekers arriving from the Congo, under the influence of progressive activists, churches and communities which make them welcome. One of these asylum seekers, David Zwahila Mota, tells of his six month journey from Africa to Central America, up through Mexico and into Maine.

Los Hermanos/ The Brothers (84 minutes)

This was so good. Cuban pianist Aldo López-Gavilán stayed in Cuba while his older brother, violinist Ilmar travelled to Russia as a 14 year old and ended up in the United States. Until Obama, they could not perform together but for just a few years they could. All brought undone by Trump.

Mango House (58 minutes)

What a truly good man. Dr PJ! is a general practitioner who developed Mango House, a combined health/dental clinic, meeting space and food court/mall where refugees could start their own businesses. The documentary covers the clinic’s activity during the COVID pandemic, and shows the myriad ways in which Mango House meets the needs of refugees.

The Garcia Family (28 minutes).‘Stop Time’ looked at the Sanctuary movement from the point of view of the refugee seeking sanctuary. This documentary looks instead at the family outside, supporting and agitating for refugee law reform. Alex Garcia has spent over 700 days in sanctuary at the United Church of Christ in St Louis, Missouri. His wife Carly is American, and they have had five years together. There is no pathway for him to get citizenship, even if he returns to Honduras for 10-15 years. It is only with the Biden administration that the law is changed on Feb 21 2021 and Alex can finally step outside onto the church steps to thank his supporters.

Ocean Wings (12 minutes)

A man and his daughter are walking away from war-torn Syria to join people-smugglers who will take them by sea. But the journey does not turn out as they thought it would.

And so finishes the Immigrant Film Fest 2022. There were far more films there than I could watch, but I feel that I received sufficient value for my $100 (damn you, AUD/US exchange rate!) Given that this was such an issue-based film festival, I guess the ultimate test would be whether I did anything new as a result of it. Yes, I did. Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (

Immigration Film Fest II

Stop Time. Plenty of Spanish in this one! Lucio is the father of four who has sought sanctuary in the First Congregational Church at Amherst, Massachusetts. He was born in Guatemala, left school early, and then went to pick coffee in Mexico at the age of 15. He left for America at the end of 1999 but was arrested as an undocumented migrant while in Dunkin’ Donuts on a trip with his children. He lived in the church for 1128 days, until the court gave him a stay on his deportation while his case was heard. He was one of 70 undocumented migrants who sought sanctuary in churches during Trump’s presidency.

One, If By Land (14 minutes) looks at the journey of three undocumented immigrants. One is a woman travelling with a coyote across the Mexican border, for the sake of her five year old son who she has left behind. Second is a Chinese migrant who arrives by ship, jumping into the water near New York only to find himself handcuffed in a hospital when he regains consciousness. Third is the imagined story of the Angolan migrant who stowed away on a plane flying to London, who fell to his death from the wheel well.

Crisis. A short (15 minutes) film about a young Korean man working in his father’s restaurant in Croatia during the COVID lockdown. As he rides around Zagreb making home deliveries, he encounters various people who look down on him but he still has dreams of enrolling to study, rather than taking over his father’s restaurant as his father wants him to do.

Voices and Locks. This 20 minute Turkish film has two children, one Armenian and one Turkish, growing up in a remote village. Gaspar (I think the Armenian boy) returns back home after 40 years in America, suffering from what looks like Parkinson’s Disease, hoping to recapture his childhood memories. But the village has been taken over by the Turkish authorities, who confiscate their land and search for gold that they (incorrectly) assume the impoverished Armenians have buried.

Un barco para mi mamá. A very short (6 minutes) black and white film where a mother recounts her two attempts to get into the United States. They are caught and deported after the first one, and the second time they go through a tunnel to get across. I don’t know whether the second time was successful or not.

Movie: The Dressmaker

I was over in Kenya when this was released, so I missed the early buzz. However, recent plaudits for this film have made up for it.

I loved the book when I read it a few years ago for its wicked humour and the film captured that well. I thought that Kate Winslet’s Australian accent was excellent, and I enjoyed seeing many familiar faces. While gorgeous, I thought that Liam Hensworth was too young to play Teddy, though.

I was rather surprised to hear that a ‘young person’ of my acquaintance (yes, I do occasionally meet one or two) absolutely hated the book and refused to see the film.  She had been compelled to study the book at school, and I really do wonder why you’d subject such a light book to being ‘done’ as literature in the classroom.  Poor choice, I’d say, and one that would kill the joy of the book with analysis.

As for me, I loved the film just as I loved the book. Full stop.



Nothing much happened and I loathed/loved it

I was about to write two blog posts about two separate works- a book and a film- until I realized that they were in many ways very similar.  For both of them, I’d have to say that not much happened, really.  Yet I had a totally different response to them: the book I loathed with a vengeance; the film I loved and even now will probably put right up top of the films I’ll see in 2015. The loathed one first….


Indelible Ink, Fiona McGregor, 2013, 464 p.

My heart sank when this book was announced with a flourish at my book group as our next read.  I have read it previously and disliked it.  After reading it a second time, (now that’s dedication)  I dislike it just as much.  I didn’t blog about it the first time, even though I was doing the Australian Women Writers Challenge.  Although my little review would not make any difference to anything, I didn’t feel right about bagging out a young novelist and so I just let it subside without trace on my blog. But it’s two years on, now; the dust has settled and I don’t have the same qualms about being critical.

I just didn’t buy the premise of this book from the start.  I don’t need to like the characters in a book (and I found them all completely unlikeable) but in the midst of a contemporary, realist book I need to be persuaded that there’s a core of plausibility in the actions of the characters.   The book has been likened favourably to The Slap and -how ’bout that- Christos Tsiolkas provided the front-cover blurb- and I can see the parallels of a family story, set in Sydney rather than Melbourne, with all the left-leaning, Radio National-type anxieties of affluent and self-absorbed inner suburban life.  All of that’s true of Indelible Ink as well, but at least The Slap moved from character to character, and there was enough variety that you’d find one person at least that you’d recognize (and probably dislike).   I think that it was the banality of the conversation that I bridled most against. Who’d want to be around these people?  I felt that the author was looming over all, pressing all the ‘luvvie’ hot-buttons, just to get a rise out of her reader.  Once again I found myself wishing that someone had ordered ‘cut! cut!’ by about 150 pages because this is a 300-page plot that doesn’t have 460 pages in it.

I know that many readers I respect have enjoyed this book- Lisa at ANZLitLovers thought highly of it; reviewers at the Australian Women Writers Challenge liked it; dammit, it even won the Age Book of the Year for 2011.  I am so outnumbered here than I was relieved to find that Marieke Hardy from the First Tuesday Book Group and I are as one on this  – thank God I’m not alone!

And so, on to what I loved….


I’d heard this book mentioned in all the pre-Oscar hype and couldn’t quite see how you could make a film over twelve years. Well, you can – because here it is. It’s not like the 7-up series, where there are clear breaks between filming schedules.  Instead, the boy Mason grows imperceptibly older, changing before your eyes.

Nothing happens, and yet much does.  Perhaps it says something about my pessimistic, anxiety-driven nature but I kept expecting something to go wrong to impose some sort of narrative arc onto the film.  I will confess that I did find myself checking my watch a few times during the film, although that was largely because I was wondering how much longer it would go before there was a climax of some sort.  There was something rather omnipotent about looking down, watching time elapse, mistakes occur and resolve, expectations rise and subside, plans falter and opportunities arise.

My enjoyment of this film was confirmed the next day when I heard friends talking about their little grandson, who is determined to be one of the first kids at school each day.  I thought back to the young Mason, and his little ways, and found myself washed over with affection both for the film character and for this little boy I’ve never met who wants to get to school early.  I’ve thought of the film many times, as if I’ve lived someone else’s life.  Quite apart from the hook of the twelve-year span, it was an intimate epic- big and small at the same time- and right up there as one of the best films I’ve seen in ages.