Revelation Film Festival – Day One

Opening Night / Good Hair

I’ll admit it. I was excited. And in honour of the opening night film of the 13th Revelation Film Festival, I even had my hair did. So begins our sojourn into the weird and wonderful world of underground and offbeat cinema. Rev 13 (that’s what the kids are calling it) kicked off tonight in spectacular West Australian fashion – meaning, there was wine and lots of it. We sandgropers flocked to the local institution that is The Astor theatre to partake in some of that fine film culture that Melbournians and Sydneysiders keep going on about. If the tremendous number of people piling into the main cinema is any indication, West Australia might prove itself to be even more cultured and high-falutin’ than our Eastern brethren.

I’m joking of course. We already are.

The opening night film – Jeff Stilson’s Good Hair – was preceded by an introduction from the Revelation team, including program director Jack Sargeant. In his third year as artistic visionary of the fest, Sargeant has easily put together the most exciting program yet. Sargeant took to the stage seeming excited, relieved and deservingly exhausted. Hopefully he absorbed some of the crowd’s rapturous reaction to the evening’s movie – at least enough to power him along for the next 10 days.

But yes, onto the movie. Director Stilson was specially flown in from Melbourne to introduce his feature film debut – a documentary about the African-American hair industry starring Chris Rock. Stilson is a veteran writer of The Chris Rock Show, as well as The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Late Show with David Letterman. At first the film feels as if it is simply a comical interstitial that would have featured during one of those programs. However, as the astounding truths behind the Black hair business become revealed, the film develops some surprising pathos. Rock isn’t a great interviewer, but he’s a wonderfully charming and hilarious screen presence. He contemplates the warped perception of Black hairdos amongst African-Americans (including his daughters) with a mixture of good humour and bewildered astonishment.

Good Hair is indeed a very solid, very funny documentary that is well worth checking out. That being said, I would have perhaps appreciated an edgier opening night selection. After all, Revelation is the eclectic, outsider film fest. I’m not exactly sure if this warmly funny film will be indicitive of the tone of the next week-and-a-half. BUT, if the intention was to prime Perth audiences for some quality entertainment and to entice them away from the consistently disappointing multiplexes and towards some rewarding, left-of-center cinema – I’d say mission accomplished.

You can catch Good Hair in Perth on Saturday 10 July, Saturday 17 July and Sunday 18 July. Purchase your tickets from the official Revelation Film Festival page. It arrives on DVD in Australia August 11.

Join me tomorrow as I report on the next batch of films to play at Revelation. And you’ll forgive my somewhat disjointed prose. Lord knows the quality of these late-night write ups by the time I reach the end of the festival.

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