Local cinemas this week

So that was the climate change election? Um… what happened?

Movie of the week: 2040

Despite everyone saying that the future of the planet was the number one issue and at the very top of voter’s concern at last Saturday’s election, it turns out  – it wasn’t… Fortunately the youngsters in our household went to bed on election night before 9pm when the adults began their descent into an all-too-familiar cynicism and grim-faced gloom. Both those responses are actually our planet’s real enemy – and its deadliest, but instead of indulging in another a (totally useless) round of sneering at Tony Abbott, everyone should have gone to bed themselves for a regenerative sleep… Tomorrow’s a new day! The sun will also still rise!

And so says Damon Gameau, the local filmmaker best known for That Sugar Film. In 2040 he’s crafted his vision of the near future as an address to the next generation – and more specifically his own 4-year-old daughter Velvet. Laudably, Palace Cinemas, who are heavily promoting the film, are allowing free entrance to any school-age child accompanied by an adult during the 2040’s opening weekend. Its the sort of gesture totally in keeping with Gameau’s generous passion and relentless positivity – and will help imbed those feelings, which most young people naturally have anyway, into their own hopes and dreams as they become adults. It’s significant too (vital, actually) that in presenting this version the future – every technology and system he discusses is presently operative – from community-based renewable energy grids, denser more sustainable cities, automated electronic transport systems replacing private cars to large scale marine permaculture. And as for the gloomy doomsayer’s all-time favourite – overpopulation, we already know the answer: Female empowerment and education – the most effective birth control mechanism there is. Gameau isn’t spruiking far-fetched utopian solutions that require the end of capitalism or massive social disruption. He’s simply putting the bleeding obvious in an attractive package in the hope that the next generation will believe that they can, and should – be agents of change.

It’s all presented in an accessible, disarmingly entertaining and graphically bold way, complete with plenty of self-depreciative dad jokes. When Velvet is 14 she’ll probably be horribly embarrassed by the film, but by the time she’s 24 (in 2040), she may well be deeply thankful too. And sure – the cynics and grumpy old men (of both sexes and all ages) will dismiss his warm and fuzzy optimism as just so much naivety, but this film isn’t for them. That lot (most people over 40, sadly) are irredeemable – too set in their ways, too cynical, and too ready to retreat into finger-pointing politics. Those Velvet’s age may just have to wait till their elders are also too old and decrepit to dominate all those infuriatingly conservative community meetings that invariably oppose neighbourhood change. Better still, let’s strike them off the electoral roll now. G from May 23. On wide release – local cinemas include Palace Norton St, Central, Burwood, Event George St and Dendy Newtown ★★★★ View the trailer

Also opening this week

With two weeks to go before the 2019 Sydney Film Festival opens, popular favourites from last year are still turning up in local cinemas. The one getting most of the attention this week is the 2018 Official Competition winner from Paraquay – a country that pretty well never gets a look-in on local screens. Is it odd that that one about a passive, reclusive middle-aged lesbian slowly coming out of her shell would be the nation’s breakthrough hit in far away Australia? Clearly in film festivals and our arthouse cinemas anyway, we haven’t reached “peak lesbian” yet… In all seriousness, The Heiresses is the sort of slow-burn, sedate affair that scoops up festival awards and gathers heaps of critical praise, but leaves non-hardcore festival audiences cold. Certainly first-time actress Ana Brun as Chela – an aristocrat by birth reduced to selling off her family heirlooms and even her furniture after her life-long lover Chiquita (Margarita Irun) is sent to gaol for fraud, gives a great performance. It’s likely that director Marcelo Martinessi may be commenting on class divisions in his country, but the muted hints he gives can’t, by themselves carry a story which feels superficial and (dare I say it?) slight. M Palace Norton St, Central and Dendy Newtown ★★★

The other 2018 SFF film hitting local screens is anything but sedate – in fact The Reports on Sarah and Saleem from Palestinian director Muayad Alayan sparks and soars in ways reminiscent of the early films of Iran’s Asghar Farhadi (A Separation). It’s a densely plotted and passionate story of an illicit affair between Palestinian man Saleem (Adeeb Safadi) and an Israeli woman, Sarah (Sivane Kretchner) in Jerusalem, both of them married to others. A big problem when their tryst is discovered is that Sarah’s husband is a colonel in the Israeli army. It’s a political film, how could it not be – but a morally complex one too, crafted with huge finesse as it tip-toes through the region’s emotional and cultural minefields with an even-handedness that’s all too rare in cinema from this bitterly divided part of the world. MA15+ at Palace Norton St and Central ★★★★

Along opening but not previewed – Brightburn and Aladdin

Reviews – Russell Edwards