IT’S early, I know, but I feel confident enough to be dealing out at least one end of year award this week. And, thankfully, my Australian film of the year award goes to one that was released on DVD this week.
Lucky Miles is a low- budget film with a big heart. Its premise sounds like the opening to a bad joke: an Iraqi, Cambodian and Indonesian walk into the Australian desert. In lesser hands it may have been: our filmmakers have not been known for their subtlety in dealing with issues such as refugees. But writer- director Michael James Rowland and co- writer Helen Barnes do a wonderful job, and I’m flummoxed as to why the film didn’t receive more nominations during the local awards season.
It’s a fraction too long but the performances are strong, particularly Rodney Afif’s. The photography is beautiful and to cap it all off, the film has a staggeringly good final line of dialogue.
I can recommend the DVD for a couple of reasons: one conventional, the other quite unconventional. The conventional asset is Don Hany’s making- of documentary. Hany plays a role in the film but during shooting he had a lot of time off.
Rowland gave him carte blanche to make whatever he wanted for the DVD. ‘‘ It’s not a puff piece,’’ Rowland says. ‘‘ It’s a jaundiced, funny view of filmmaking from the point of view of someone who has to sit around the set with nothing to do.’’
The unconventional asset is something I haven’t seen, or heard, before in this format. The special features allow you to watch the last 15 minutes of the film while listening to the reaction of the audience at its Sydney Film Festival screening earlier this year.
After hearing so many commentary tracks where indulgent cast members giggle their way annoyingly through the film, this novel approach is not only refreshing but quite a revelation. ‘‘ In a lot of ways, how the audience reacts to the film is a bit of a coda to the film,’’ Rowland says.
The language barriers between characters mean there is much slapstick and physical humour in the film. But Rowland’s film is also political without ever being didactic.
‘‘ The film’s transgressive but it seems to contain something that a lot of people think,’’ he says.
‘‘ I wanted people to know, by listening to this audience recording, that there’s other people like them out there and also give people in their lounge room that great thing about the collective filmwatching experience.’’
It’s not the highest- quality recording but it is most instructive and, of itself, very entertaining. I was particularly interested to hear how others dealt with the film’s final line of dialogue. ‘‘ People ask me if it’s like a laugh track,’’ says Rowland. ‘‘ It’s not, it’s about a small audience connecting.’’
Finally, an apology is due. Unfortunately, the Kath & Kim Series 1- 4 box set isn’t available pre- Christmas as I mentioned last week. That was the plan but due to circumstances beyond DVD Letterbox’s control, it won’t be released until some time next year. DISC WATCH: H. R. Pufnstuf: The Complete Series ( Sony, G, $ 39.99) A three- disc set of the 1969 children’s series that was created by people consuming things that aren’t for children. A TV oddity.
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bodeym@ theaustralian. com. au