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Aspen Shortsfest: ‘Remake’ a quirky Australian look at our affection for films

Stewart Oksenhorn
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
Contributed photo"Remake," a comedy by Australian filmmakers Chris Tomkins and Marisa Brown, shows in Thursday's 8:30 p.m. screening program at Aspen Shortsfest.
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ASPEN – As filmmakers Chris Tomkins and Marisa Brown approach the finish for one of their latest projects, “There’s No Place,” they have become dubious about the film’s potential outside their native Australia.

“It may never be seen in the U.S.,” Tomkins said. “I showed it to some of my friends in Seattle and realized the humor is so localized, it will make no sense. It’s about a homeless man trying to reconnect with his son.”

“Which is a universal thing,” Brown said. “But he’s a ‘Dr. Who’ fan. And all the jokes rely on you knowing ‘Dr. Who.'”



No such problem exists with “Remake,” the six-minute film that Tomkins, who wrote and directed, and Brown, the producer, have brought to Aspen Shortsfest for a screening at 8:30 p.m. Thursday. The topic in “Remake” is Hollywood movies, and the essence of the short, which involves a bungled burglary, is that everybody has an opinion – strongly held and worth arguing over, even if vastly uninformed – about mainstream cinema.

“Part of my thought process was, even though there’s conflict between all these characters – some are there to arrest the others – what draws them together is their passion for film,” Tomkins said.



“People do take their films seriously,” Brown added.

People also take their own specific tastes in the arts seriously, as Tomkins has discovered in an unusual fashion. Some years ago, he was living in a house that was burglarized three times. On each occasion, the thieves made off with CDs – not the entire CD collection but only part of it, and the pilfered CDs were apparently selected with regard to the burglar’s musical tastes.

“I always wondered what process they went into,” Tomkins said. “You think a burglar would want to get in, get out real quick. But these guys picked out what they wanted. It’s sort of an affront to your tastes. Not that you’d want to share a taste with these people who robbed your house, but … “

“Oh, what’s wrong with my CDs?” Brown interjected. “You took a book and a pair of shoes – but you left all my CDs?”

In its brief duration, “Remake” manages to get into specifics of film criticism: classic cinema versus more contemporary sensibilities, entertainment or art, highbrow and lowbrow. The easy presumption is that Tomkins sides with the burglar with the more sophisticated tastes – he argues in favor of the original “Ocean’s Eleven” – but Tomkins says that he also relates with the more dimwitted thief, who can’t fathom why a heist movie ends with Dean Martin singing “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head.”

“In sort of a weird way, both those characters are in my head to an extent,” Tomkins said. “Because I didn’t do film school in a practical sense. I did film theory and critique as part of a larger arts degree. So there was a lot of counter-arguing in my head: ‘I think the filmmaker was trying to say this – or maybe he was saying that.'”

Neither Tomkins nor Brown shied away from the stereotype that “Remake” displays a quintessentially Australian sense of humor, with the comedy very out-front and cheeky.

“There is something in Australian comedy – there are no boundaries,” said Tomkins, who has done some stand-up and sketch comedy. “And sometimes that is problematic. No one knows where they should stop.”

“In Australia, no one takes themselves seriously,” Brown added. “You can hang s— on each other, be totally open and honest. And that bleeds into the comedy – you can do anything.”

But Tomkins and Brown haven’t confined themselves to comedy. Their last short, “Rain for Morgan,” directed by Brown, was a drama set in drought-stricken post-World War II Australia. The story was based on a Celtic myth about mermaids, and the film had period costumes, time-lapse photography and underwater sequences. Tomkins and Brown, who work together in a Melbourne production company that focuses on corporate films and who squeeze in their shorts project as time permits, were happy to move into the simpler mode of “Remake.”

“It was nice to say, ‘The next thing we shoot will be one location, a few characters, a one-day shoot, no costumes,'” Brown said. “Nice and easy.”

The 20th annual Aspen Shortsfest, which opened Tuesday, runs through Sunday, with daily screening programs at the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen and programs on Sunday in Carbondale. Thursday’s events include screening programs at 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. For a full schedule, go to http://www.aspenfilm.org.

stewart@aspentimes.com


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