Phillipe Sands @ Melbourne Writers Festival 2016

‘What haunts are not the dead, but the gaps left within us by the secrets of others’ – Nicolas Abraham

I was worried the early Sunday morning timeslot would deter some from experiencing the brilliance that is Phillipe Sands. But, I needn’t have worried as it seems that Sands had drawn a full house for his Melbourne Writers Festival appearance at the wonderful ACMI. He managed three appearances at the festival over 48 hours and I was lucky enough to catch his last presentation, ‘Phillipe Sands: The Origins of Genocide.’ Yeah, I know it’s not the most cheerful of subjects to be talking about early on a weekend morning but it was more than insightful.

Sands is a prolific criminal barrister, working on many of the biggest cases we have seen in recent years—the Iraq Inquiry, anybody heard of it? This is a man who knows his stuff and his stuff just happens to be crimes against humanity. What began as an exploration into the origins of the words ‘genocide’ and ‘crimes against humanity’ quickly turned into something more personal for Sands. The more he researched, the more he found little coincidences that connected his own family to the two men who created those phrases post-World War II. He presented his research and own family story with gusto and just a twinge of sadness—he never spoke to his grandfather about his wartime experiences but boy were they worth talking about.


Photo credit: Tegan Sizer

Sands explored the often under researched relationship between grandparent and grandchild, made especially tricky when that grandparent had experienced trauma. Sands’ point was made with little jargon, weaving everyday language with psychological research that left the audience (an audience of mainly over 55s—I, at 25 years old, stood out like a sore thumb) questioning their own relationships with others.

Sands is a charismatic speaker, the (in my opinion) too-short 60 minutes flew by and I was left wanting more. Sands was joined on stage by esteemed ABC Radio presenter Rafael Epstein who seemed to be just as much in awe of Sands as his audience was. Epstein asked questions that prompted just the right answers without revealing too much of East West Street’s plot.

I want you all to go out and read Sands’ resulting novel, East West Street: On the Origins of “Genocide” and “Crimes Against Humanity”, so I will not reveal any of the captivating things Sands discovers here. Just know that this novel will have you hooked from the beginning.

For me, this was the highlight of a wonderful Melbourne Writers Festival for 2016. I urge you all to do yourselves a favour and read East West Street. No, genocide is not fun to talk about but if we don’t educate ourselves on the past we are doomed to repeat it in the future. And that is exactly what Phillipe Sands is afraid of.

Words by Tegan Sizer.


A Worthy MIFF Report

It’s 12:00 at night, and I am so tired. I have just seen my 5th movie of the day, speeding backwards and forwards between the major cinemas of the festival: Kino, Forum, Comedy Theatre, Hoyts in Melbourne Central etc., interspersed with meet-ups with mates, drinking cheap Japanese beer, and discussing the festival with feverish excitement. It is the 65th Melbourne International Film Festival, and from 28th July – 14th August, I and many other die-hard cinephiles will be in movie heaven. I sit where I normally sit; the 14th seat of the 3rd row of the ACMI cinema, one of my favourite cinemas of the festival. It is dark, moody, dramatic and refreshingly modern with exceedingly comfortable seats. The screen is displayed in front of me and my mate, here to see the 40th anniversary restoration of the American independent horror movie PHANTASM. We cannot wait as the background music plays in smooth jazz and beat-bop saxophone solos. On the screen we see, in giant, colourful fonts: MIFF Melbourne International Film Festival. Then the screen dims, the title screen shows, the foreboding music booms through the cinema. And the few of us dedicated or stupid enough to see the movie when most cinema goers had long gone home? We would not rather be anywhere else. This is MIFF in a nutshell.

This is the third year in a row I have attended MIFF. It costs around $300 to get a members passport to see as many movies as you are humanly able to. Pricey? Yes, but sweet Jesus it is worth every penny spent. You see movies from all over the world: Iran, France, Slovenia, Austria, Italy, Venezuela, China, Japan, Brazil, Spain, Thailand, Indonesia, Russia, Nigeria, Ethiopia etc., and they come from almost every era of film history, from the recently produced, to undiscovered classics. To enter, all you need is one of the amazing volunteers to scan your tickets—and you’re in. On top of these amazing films, from the usual digital projections right up to the exceedingly rare 35mm film prints, you will also have the opportunity to see the opening premieres of some of the most exciting names in cinema at the moment as they come for the film’s opening, or for a Q&A session with the directors themselves! You also have access to bars, little member’s lounges to indulge in a bit of free food and drink for relaxation, while chatting away to your fellow film nerds. It’s a wonderful life.

Phantasm remastered 2016 1979

PHANTASM: Remastered (2016;1979)

The fun of the movie-going experience really is the most exciting and nerve-racking part of the festival. For me, this year has being a rollercoaster of emotions and it still isn’t even finished! I have been blown away by films such as Ceila Rowlson-Hall’s Ma, a road trip film about the Virgin Mary told entirely through dance. Despite some walkouts and curses muttered under people’s breath, I was staggered at its extraordinary beauty, and when the director herself turned up for Q&A? I lost my mind. I walked up to her, nervous by her raw talent, and shook her hand and said ‘Thank you for such an amazing experience’ before I quickly ran away, along with my giddiness.

I have also shed tears over Studio Ghibli’s new film: The Red Turtle. This was an ecstatic experience of beautiful animation and the first film made under Studio Ghibli that was not created in Japan, instead, having animators from all over the world create a work of sheer beauty. Experimental films such as Khalil Blues, Evolution, My Life as a Courgette etc. I have also seen works that completely mystify me in their strangeness, such as the new Polish musical, The Lure, about two mermaids who become cabaret singers and how their sex lives and eating habits (closely intertwined) are obscuring their dreams of musical glory…

Where else but MIFF?

The Red Turtle 2016

The Red Turtle (2016)

The biggest highlights for me were four films: Starless Dreams, Cosmos, Death in Sarajevo, and The Family. These films represented what was brilliant about MIFF and the quality of the stories that are shared at the event. Cosmos is a nonsensical, yet witty and wholly original magical journey into cinematic creation, which is sadly the last film of wondrous (and personal favourite) Polish filmmaker Andrzej Żuławski (who created the wonderfully demented Possession in 1981). We also had a fantastic exposé documentary on a female detention centre in Tehran with Starless Dreams, with some of the most heartbreaking scenes I have ever seen in recent cinema (one of the girls calls herself 651 after how many grams of crystal meth she had being caught carrying). Death in Sarajevo is a loose adaptation of Hotel Europa, which was a provoking and contagiously arresting piece on Blakan region politics and the resulting violence. The Family, however is one of Australia’s biggest and most disturbing contribution to the festival, discussing the bizarre family cult that emerged in Melbourne during the 60s and 70s, featuring LSD injections, indoctrination, and child abuse. It is one of the most disturbing documentaries about one of the darkest times of recent Melbourne history.

I am always of the strong opinion that if anyone believes or thinks that cinema itself is dead, mutilated or slowly becoming extinct, they are very, very mislead. Thanks to MIFF (which is, as of now, the SECOND largest film festival in the world, next to Cannes Film Festival in France), everyone in Victoria is but a stone’s throw away from some of the most enlightening, funny, dark, tragic and beautiful stories that world cinema has to offer.

And now as the festival is wrapping up, I can say that I have had no sleep, watched dozens and dozens of films, interacted with the lovely volunteers of MIFF, and run across the entirety of Melbourne for some of the most magical and luminous stories modern cinema has to offer. I cannot wait to do this all over again next year.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year for us cinema nerds.

Vivre la Cinéma!

Words by W.D Farnsworth.

For the Night is Dark and Full of Spoilers

On 8th March, HBO released the first trailer for season six of Game of Thrones and it has since garnered over 24 million views on YouTube. The new season is set to be released in April, and for the first time those who’ve read the books are no better informed than those who watch the show. This is partially due to the creative choices of showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, who have been deviating further and further from the source material with each passing season. But mostly it is down to what is probably an unprecedented state of affairs: for the first time in television history*, a TV adaptation has overtaken the book series on which it is based.

A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin is a slow writer, something his legions of fans lament louder each month that passes without a hint of his sixth book, The Winds of Winter, appearing on the shelves. Combine that with the swift pace of Game of Thrones production and it becomes inevitable that this situation would come about. What this means for the fans, however, is far less clear-cut.

As a bona fide ‘have read the books’ snob, I can inform readers that up until recently the more optimistic Song of Ice and Fire fans were holding out for an early 2016 Winds of Winter release, which would allow us to finish the book before season six started airing and thus avoid potential spoilers and retain our air of superiority. Sadly for us this has not occurred, and George Martin got himself in hot water recently when he revealed that he originally planned to have The Winds of Winter finished by Halloween last year to allow for an early 2016 release, but blew through that deadline and a follow-up deadline on 31st December. Curse you, you slow typing serial killer. Curse you to the seven hells!

Thankfully for show fans, George Martin’s snail-paced fingers have saved them from yet another season of teasing hints and gloating from book readers. For the first time in Game of Thrones history, book and show fans are diving into a new season on level ground, and this is why the season six trailer is so important. For those who haven’t watched it, it does what all trailers do: gives us a few hints of what is to come without revealing anything truly important. We see soldiers in battle, arrows firing, windows breaking in, Drogon flying and women kissing: all the hallmarks of what makes Game of Thrones great. But there is also a mournful tone to this trailer; it opens with an image of Jon Snow’s bloody corpse and the words ‘he’s gone’, and as we see each of our surviving favourites in turn they all seem to be suffering: Jaime and Cersei are mourning their daughter, a careworn Jorah searches for Daenerys, Melisandre is confronting failure, Arya gets hit, Daenerys is a ragged slave amidst a Dothraki horde, and Tyrion looks unshaven and afraid. There’s a real sense even in one minute and forty-one seconds of everything that’s been lost, exacerbated by the sorrowful melody of James Vincent McMorrow’s ‘Wicked Game’. Whatever this season is, it doesn’t look like it’s going to be happy. But by now that’s what we expect.


Image Source: HBO

But it’s not all doom and gloom; with a new season comes new possibilities. Rumours have been swirling ever since season five ended that Jon Snow is not really dead, and high profile actors Max von Sydow and Ian McShane are joining the crew. On top of this Isaac Hempstead-Wright is returning as Bran after his character’s one-season hiatus, looking older and more capable though faced with more deadly foes. I’m quite looking forward to not knowing what will come next, safe in knowledge that thanks to the show’s independence any and all revelations will only be confirmed as spoilers by reading The Winds of Winter when it is released. And book readers do have something exclusive to look forward to; after some humming and harring George Martin has decided to go ahead with a twist for book six that the show cannot do as they have already killed one of the characters involved. That’s what you get for ignoring the source material, fools! I kid. Game of Thrones is an excellent show, and everyone who watches season six is in for a treat, as (blink and you’ll miss it) the trailer shows part of a flashback sequence featuring Ned Stark in battle against the Kingsguard. As for where the fight is and what they’re fighting over, well, us book readers know, but giving any hints would just be spoiling it.

Happy viewing everyone!

WORDLY’s resident medieval fantasy correspondent,
Rowan Girdler


*Probably. I didn’t check or anything. (Editor’s note: definitely not!)





In the chilly Richmond Theatrette last Saturday night, I was waiting in the lobby after purchasing my ticket to the opening night of this Melbourne Fringe Festival show when a door was opened and the notes of a guitar began to sing out, along with the voice of the guitarist himself. Ross Cottee greeted the guests of the first show of ‘Quippings Disability Unleashed’ with his unique and fearless performance as he walked through the people watching on, waiting to enter the theatre. This first segment of the night was given a well-deserved applause before Ross handed over to the one and only Emma J Hawkins, who introduced herself as the night’s MC. Emma’s excitement was infectious and her superb MCing skills were exhilarating as she introduced the show before ushering us inside.

Our instructions as we entered the theatre were not to take a seat, but to stand around the chairs in a circle facing out. Emma invited the audience to see, but also to be seen while we met the performers for the night. In the minutes that followed, the members of the audience were examined and scrutinized by the performers as they walked around us. The minutes ticked by in discomfort as they demonstrated what it felt like to be stared at and judged based on what someone walking past you could see. After this, we took our seats and I knew we were in for a memorable night of performances.

Emma J Hawkins segmented the rest of the night by announcing at intervals contestants for the ‘Most Inspiring Person with a Disability Award’, each of whom was portrayed by the hilarious and satirical Kath Duncan. This send-up of people who work in the disability sector sent a very clear message: do not pigeon-hole the people you claim to be trying to support, because all that is, is degrading.


The night continued with a dance routine to ‘I Am What I Am’ by Emma J Hawkins wearing a unicorn head, which was funny, inspiring, and unnerving (that unicorn head stared unblinkingly into my soul) all in one. This was followed by a seductive piece of spoken word poetry, in which Jax Jackie Brown beguiled us with the pleasures and pains of having piercings on some of the most sensitive parts of your body—and yes, the costume is meant to be exactly what you thought it looked like when you first saw it. Budding comedienne Natalie Corrigan gave a universally relatable reminder of the interpretive dance we’ve all done with the toilet bowl, before leading on to tell us what really gives her the shits about people who campaign for disability awareness in all the wrong and undignifying ways.

As we get to the later half of the show, the content gets heavier. The lights dimmed for the next part of the show. The audience was graced with an amazing routine by trained dancer Sonia Marcon, defying the limitations of multiple sclerosis, which was accompanied by a voiceover describing the hardships of everyday life for people living with a disability. Carly Findlay then recited a letter to her potential future child in which she challenged old ideas about social acceptance of disability, including both her fears and her hopes, and her support for a woman’s right to choose what happens with her body. The final blow is delivered by Assistant Director Jarrod Marrinon, who left us with a eulogy to his late girlfriend, disability activist Madeleine Sobb, who passed away earlier in the year. Jarrod’s eulogy was both heartbreaking and heart-warming, filled with humour and windows into his relationship with Madeleine. And last but not least, to wrap up the show, the beautiful Sugarcane (Daye Han) shared her equally lovely voice with the uplifting ‘First Song’ which she wrote on request for Jarrod and a friend Isaac Ishadi, and originally performed by their band ‘Chelsie and the Sea Dragon’.

And suddenly the night was over. So many performances with such profound impacts on the audience had passed in waves of hilarity, sadness, and delight. Quippings Disability Unleashed is a fantastic set of performances which prove how strong, inspiring and influential an individual can be despite whatever hardships life may throw at them. Don’t miss out on seeing their shows on Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th September at the Richmond Theatrette.

Follow the link to their Facebook page for more info:

Review by Bonnee Crawford.

Digital Writers’ Festival 2015

In an age of digital literacy and online platforms, both for publication and for networking, writers can reach out to one another and enhance their potential in so many different ways.

The Digital Writers’ Festival will be hosting events online from 11 ­– 22 February 2015 and we want YOU to get involved by engaging with those events. That’s right: you can attend these events from the comfort of your own home, on your device with internet access and hear from and get in touch with other writers and industry experts from all over the world.

Check out the Digital Writers’ Festival events list at their official website:

You can also follow them on Twitter: @digitalwriters or look up #DWF2015

Digital Writers’ Festival also has a Tumblr blog for your enjoyment:

Deakin Writers and WORDLY Magazine look forward to seeing you attending these events online.10960882_10206129856154966_1842246151_o (2) 10960882_10206129856154966_1842246151_o

TV Show Review: How I Met Your Mother (Finale)


Tuesday (in the US) marked the ending of the nine-year series How I Met Your Mother. Set up as a romantic tale of true love and destiny, it spanned more than 200 episodes and had around nine million viewers. The meeting, built up over years and years of storytelling, was probably the biggest cop-out I have ever seen. The ending reeks of cold feet and of the creators hastily going back on their own idea. Spoilers: The Mother dies and then Ted goes and gets the blue French horn to win Robin back. Seriously? SERIOUSLY!? Fuck off. It is literally the worst possible outcome I could have imagined. I really liked Cristin Miloti’s Mother. She was lovely and endearing and worked well with Ted (Josh Radnor). But no, it had to be Robin. And that’s basically ruined the whole point of a series that we now realise could have given up about halfway through season three. The conclusion they set up across many series – Barney asking ‘What’s next?’ after sleeping with 200 women, Ted promising to tell his kids every little detail of how he met their mother because he had never heard his own parents’ story, Robin floating in to the sky as Ted symbolically let her go – did not pay off in the finale. Worse, from a purely logical point of view, their conclusion did not follow from the premises. Don’t bother watching finale, and certainly don’t bother watching the ending. It is mediocre right up until it has an almighty cop-out and sends Ted after Robin once again. It sends every character back to the cardboard cut-out of an archetype they started as after about 15 minutes; it totally negates all character development. Seriously, it sucks. What a terrible ending to a series I genuinely enjoyed. Fuck.


An Online Publishing Revolution?

I’ve been trying to work out whether or not there’s a publishing revolution on right now. If there is, it’s one that couldn’t exist without the internet, social media and, oddly, a lot of free content. It’s also one that established and best-selling authors are getting on board with. Literary giants such as Salman Rushdie, Joyce Carrol Oates and recently Stephen King are on Twitter, tweeting regularly (Oates just 2 minutes ago; Rushdie’s taking a break to finish writing a book; King’s been busy sparking controversy) under no obligation. So maybe, that’s the way things are headed for the publication industry.

There was a publishing revolution after WW2, when major capital cities in affluent parts of the world lay in ruins and the demand for lost, destroyed and as-of-yet-unwritten information was high. The major publishing companies which survived the war took on this demand and flourished because of it. Penguin distributed paperbacks to soldiers in the war and published information on military equipment, while Alfred A. Knopf sent one of the first publishers to Europe after the war to discover and promote European literature, and W.W. Norton donated 123 million books to military servicemen. At this time, print was the best way to distribute information and even a method to rebuild history. Companies at the time had to find new ways to promote and sell literature.

“New” is pretty much the key word for online publishing.  Not only in regards to blogging and posting on social networks, but opportunities for publishing on the internet continue to expand rapidly. And, despite this supposedly being a generation of short attention spans, much of this writing is long form, given the internet’s infinite space.

But a lot of writing online doesn’t point to any kind of publishing revolution. If there is one, it’s because now is being touted the golden age of self- and independent publishing. More than a decade ago, an author’s best deal was to be picked up by a major publishing house who wanted to buy and sell their work. This meant the author’s name was going to be out there, that they would be in a better financial position to focus on writing and able to let their employer handle the rest. But since self-promotion has become easier and more commonplace, the self-publishing route has turned a few more heads and new independent publishing houses are making themselves known, recruiting debut authors. Are writers now getting better at publicising themselves than the employers of the previous generation ever were?

Flavourwire’s list on some of the best indie publishing houses shows that, while the best-selling authors might still rule the markets, literary work is finding a new comfort zone. And while Forbes magazine’s Jeff Bercovici stated that this is the end of the era of the book, Paul Carr from Tech Crunch shot back and claimed the opposite, that in fact online publishing has caused book sales to thrive. Meanwhile, self-publishing golden-boy Hugh Howie has been working on a manifesto, detailing, if he was in charge, how he’d be running the major publishing houses and Penelope Trunk (hugely successful blogger-cum-author) tells the internet why she picked self-publishing over a major book deal.

It might be hasty to call this a revolution. Especially because, when it comes to the internet, it’s hard to tell what’s actually a big deal and what just happens to be getting lots of shares and retweets that week. But the broad discussion on the topic feels like, at least, the beginnings of something.

I think Rushdie, Oates and King logging onto Twitter shows that even those who’ve been around forever need to get online just to keep up. Maybe they want to be part of the revolution too.



Writes for Blaire Magazine