Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Anna Broinowski.
Local filmmaker Anna Broinowski is well known for her insightful and provocative documentaries. Her debut film was Hell Bento!, which explored the little known world of underground Japanese counter culture, while her best known film is Forbidden Lies, which uncovered the literary deception of Norma Khouri’s fabricated biographical tale of a Muslim honour killing. Her latest film starts from a more personal perspective.
When Broinowski learned that a global energy company was about to start drilling for coal seam gas in a local park in her neighbourhood, the alarm bells started ringing. The controversial practice of “fracking” as it is known was explored most effectively and frighteningly in Josh Fox’s eye opening documentary GasLand, which demonstrated how the process leaks dangerous chemicals into local water supplies causing massive health problems. It was also the subject of Gus Van Sant’s recent drama Promised Land, starring Matt Damon and Frances McDormand.
Determined to try and stop the gas mine being built, Broinowski set out to make a film aimed at convincing the locals to rally against the operation. But how best to make such a film? She didn’t want to make a conventional documentary. She found inspiration in a book that a friend had given her. It was called The Cinema And Directing, and had been written by none other than Kim Jung Il, the notoriously repressive ruler of North Korea.
Apparently Jung Il was a cinema buff, who had a private collection of some 20,000 Hollywood films in his private DVD library. He had also overseen the production of thousands of films between 1964 and 2012, many of which were remakes of Hollywood classics. His manifesto was the guide book by which all Korean films were made. North Korea was one of the largest makers of propaganda films in the world and has a thriving film industry.
Broinowski wanted to make her film in the style of the Korean melodramas exploring the plight of the downtrodden working classes, full of action set pieces, songs, and heavy handed condemnation of the evil and corrupt capitalists. Broinowski was given permission to travel to Pyongyang and was granted unprecedented access to Korea’s film industry and some of its leading film makers, including Jung Il’s favourite director and even Ri Gwannam, who has been dubbed Korea’s answer to Oliver Stone. But rather than the repressive regime and restrictive nature of the country, which has no internet and little access to outside sources of news and information, Broinowski found many of the people she met surprisingly open, warm and welcoming, well informed and curious.
But we also see Broinowski take the lessons she learned during her time in Korea back to Sydney where she sets out to make her film in the style of those Korean propaganda films. Local actors like Peter O’Brien, Susan Prior and Matt Zemeres take part in her short film. But most telling of all are those scenes in which Broinowski talks to many farmers to discover the impace that coal seam gas mining has had on their health and lifestyle. It is clear that Broinowski has an agenda to follow here, but she does so in an entertaining and informative fashion.
Aim High In Creation is something of a passion project for Broinowski who spent nearly two years working on the film. With gentle humour and insight she manages to weave together an intricate tapestry that includes environmental issues, geopolitics and filmmaking theory.