Access from the Margins: The Other Film Festival 2014

By Kroenert, Tim | Metro Magazine, Autumn 2015 | Go to article overview

Access from the Margins: The Other Film Festival 2014


Kroenert, Tim, Metro Magazine


'In the past, they didn't know what Asperger's was; they just thought people were a bit mad,' says Andrew Pullen, speaking to-camera. The subject of Summer DeRoche's quirky short documentary The Globe Collector (2012) certainly seems eccentric, if not exactly 'mad'. But he's also charming, seif-deprecating and a veritable font of knowledge, proudly displaying his vast collection of vintage lamps, explaining the chemistry that makes them work and describing his quest to preserve this historic technology. 'They say [Asperger's is] a disorder,' Pullen says, reflecting on the manifestation of autism that underpins his nearly compulsive obsession. 'I don't like the term disorder. It's just another type of person--another type of personality.'

There could be few more pertinent words for the opening night of The Other Film Festival (TOFF). The biennial event, held most recently on 3-7 December 2014 at the Melbourne Brain Centre at The University of Melbourne, showcases films about the diverse experiences of people with disability.

Back in 2004, festival director Rick Randall tells me,

A few of us who were working in arts and disability were reflecting on the fact that there wasn't a festival where we could screen films about the experience of disability. And there was an absence of authentic and engaging portrayals of disability on our TVs and cinema screens. I pitched the festival to Arts Access Victoria, and they liked it.

Now in its tenth year, TOFF has become a cultural mainstay, with nothing less than social reform in its sights. TOFF 'is changing how the community thinks about disability', declares the festival's website. 'We do this by programming the best films from around the world about the lived experience of disability.'

Randall sets the bar high. TOFF's twoperson selection panel--comprising the festival's associate director, Sophie Sherriff, and Melbourne music producer Akash Temple --is instructed to apply a set of stringent criteria to the slush pile of submissions (which numbered 200-plus in 2014), with the result that only films of both substance and quality make the final cut of the program.

The Globe Collector was my personal favourite this year. It delivers a lot of information in a very short amount of time. And it really introduces you to your subject [...] Andrew reveals himself very proactively. That sums up what the festival is about.

These revelations occur in myriad ways. For instance, Nicholas Jeffries' experimental drama Phantom Pain (2014) uses surreal imagery to visualise a double amputee's memory of her long-gone legs. Similarly, Emma Norton, who has Down syndrome, dances before an intimate camera and whispers 'I love my skin' in voiceover in Skin Touching Sky (2014), a film that she co-directed with Kat Worth. Like these Australian films, the international batch were equally provocative. Clark Matthews' Krutch (2013) is a frank exploration of a young physically disabled woman's sexuality. …

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