MICHAEL BODEY

DVD LET­TER­BOX

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

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

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