2013 IIFF - Peter Weir Masterclass
Posted on Friday April 12, 2013, 18:26 by Simon Braund in Under The Radar
Among the many screenings yesterday at the festival, one that struck a particular chord was F Type Film, which is in competition for the FACE Human Rights Award.
Produced by Turkish rock band and political activists Grup Yorum, it’s a compilation of nine short films by ten directors addressing the conditions in Turkey’s notorious F Type prisons (or F-type High Security Closed Institutions for the Execution of Sentences, as they are officially known). The prisons were introduced in the 1990s, substituting individual cells for the old dormitory blocks to house members of armed organizations, drug offenders and those facing aggravated life imprisonment’, which replaced the death penalty in Turkey in 2002.
Director Hu[umlaut]seyin Karabev described how he an other filmmakers worked closely with F Type inmates to expose conditions in the prisons. One audience member, who had served six years in an F Type, thanked Karabev for the film’s accuracy.
The highlight of the festival today was an illuminating and highly entertaining master class by director Peter Weir (Picnic At Hanging Rock, The Year Of Living Dangerously, Witness, The Truman Show, Master And Commander). Again, from a welter of fascinating anecdotes, insights and useful tips (i.e. only serve small cups of coffee at casting meetings; you might want to get rid of someone quickly) one story had particular relevance for the setting - how he came to make 1981’s Gallipoli, his haunting dramatization of the World War I campaign, waged by Allied forces, many of them Australians and New Zealanders, to seize Turkey’s Gallipoli peninsula and take control of the Dardanelles. The action was a disaster, a brutal, months-long stalemate that resulted in horrific casualties on both sides.
Gallipoli plays a crucial role in Australian history and initially, Weir claims, he had no interest in putting it on film. That changed when he visited the battleground in 1976. “It was nothing like is today,” he says. “The graves were there, but nothing else. I noticed a few soldiers [up on the ridge], but there was no one else there. I swam in the water for a while and I was thinking about the shrapnel, whether when it hit the water it would’ve been harmless. That’s was the only thought I had about making a film about Gallipoli. After that, I walked up the hill, the route the ANZACs (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) took. I reached a point and suddenly the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I froze. I knew there were people there. I think when you go to a place where so many young men have died, you can feel them there. I looked up to the ridge where I’d seen the soldiers and I called out, ‘Helloo!’ Nothing. So I began shouting, ‘Show me something. Show me your things!’ No reply. I walked on around a bend and there it was - an army boot, shrunk by the sun to the size of a baby’s; a rusted water bottle; a knife... That’s when I knew I was going to make the film.”