We have it all, just like Bogie and Bacall

Oh, those lovely lyrics in the heading below based on John Huston’s classic film noir Key Largo released 70 years ago this July are enough to raise the pulses of film buffs across the cinema globe.

This special feeling these old motion pictures create are also being felt among members of the Southern Fleurieu Film Society in Milang on the first Friday of the month followed by the Wednesday in Centenary Hall, Goolwa.

Some stay after an old, late show and debate the movie over a cup of tea and maybe a biscuit from the Tim Tam tin, not to be confused with the original Rin Tin Tin (1918-32), who was rescued from a World War I battlefield by an American soldier and went on to appear in 27 Hollywood box office hits.

Apologies for the trivia, but talk to Mike Tye, chairman of this society (SFFS), and you find yourself drifting beyond the story lines of the movies with a difference, as selected by him and his committee: Gillian Keen, Lachlan Kelly, plus Michael and Heather Masters. Imagine that, a husband and wife picking the same movie.

Mike rates himself as a film buff more than ever before, and like so many enjoys getting away from the typical productions and becoming engrossed in not only the actual movie, but the story behind those who made it and the cultural experiences of its origin.

There is a sense of quirkiness about the society’s films, just like its actual formation. In 2014 Goolwa identity Carol Gaston presented of a film of a trip in the theatrette within the Signal Point Gallery. It seated only 50 people, and being after hours and with the only toilet by the Ballastone Wine counter a security guard needed to be hired.

It was an expensive necessity, and plans were afoot to turn the theatrette into a new kitchen and toilet block. Carol told the gathering that if they formed a film society the council would probably save the theatrette. “Hands up who would like to form one?” she asked. And our Mike raised his.

There were 50 members signed up at the first movie night in 2013, and it was obvious the theatrette wasn’t big enough anyway so Centenary Hall, a beautifully renovated venue with stunning acoustics, a projector and all the latest equipment was a logical option.

Today there are 220 members who pay $50 a year to see these special films, and have the option of rating them five stars to one and share in healthy debate.

Mike, who is an acclaimed artist specialising in ceramics, said he had always loved going to the classic cinemas like Nova the old Mercury, seeing arthouse films and those with a difference. “I am not a big fan of Hollywood films; a lot of the time they have a happy ending and they’re predictable,” he said.

“The committee picks our films. We all put something up for consideration, and we have our different tastes.

“We did a survey of members in 2014, and unfortunately for me there were a few genres they didn’t really like – sci-fi, westerns and horror, and probably action films. Personally I can understand horror, but gee there are so many good sci-fi and westerns.

“Anything with a lot of violence we do not show, so no Quintin Tarantino, whose movies I really like. I slipped a western in once, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and I got members saying there was too much violence. It’s a classic, and hey, it’s Clint Eastwood.

“Some people want to see entertaining films, and entertainment is important, but having a diversity of films with different genres and from different countries is important as well.

“Members like to see a movie that exposes them to a culture other than their own. A favourite of mine is Wadjda, a contemporary film set in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia about a young girl who wants to get a push bike and girls aren’t supposed to ride them over there.

“This movie is about the gender issue, made by a female director. Women and men are supposed to work together in Saudi Arabia so she had to direct the film from the inside of a van and talk to the crew outside via a walkie-talkie. It was a very interesting film because of that story behind the movie, and it also gave you a good look at what day-to-day life was like for women where the film was set.

“Last year we showed a Serbian film Black Cat White Cat, and while I loved it the members were divided. It was a love-hate situation, and when they voted 5-to-1 there were hardly any votes in between. We got more comments on our facebook page than ever before, and it is great to have opinions about a movie.”

The society presents another movie with a difference, When Pigs Have Wings, next week, a political parable with satire about a poor Palestinian fisherman Jafaar who inadvertently hauls in a pig, and he must try to off-load the ‘unclean’, forbidden animal whilst avoiding the scrutiny of Israeli soldiers, Islamic fundamentalists, and his poor long-suffering wife. Different indeed, but that’s the attraction.

Local film societies are part of a bigger organisation, and because South Australia did not have a governing body until recent years the SFFS comes under the umbrella of the Federation of Victorian Film Society.

The societies are made up of volunteers and they face numerous challenges, especially tracking down screening rights.

“Australia’s biggest film distributor is Roadshow, and it is easy to gain the rights from there, but some from overseas are extremely difficult,” Mike said. “The film industry is really regulated – and it should be – and you wouldn’t want to show a film without paying screening rights; the fines are enormous.

“The societies generally sign up and show films for $55 a time. Roadshow has a sliding scale and if you have a big membership it’s $100. If you weren’t a film society they may charge you $300 or $500 per film.

“Our committee – and we would love to increase it if there was someone out there with some film experience or interest who would like to join us – works had to achieve our main objectives; to promote films as an art form, and to provide an opportunity for social interaction between our members by viewing the screenings.

“Before every feature we would like to show a short film, especially those made by young South Australian film makers, but it is hard tracking enough of them down. It’s time consuming and it’s always up to how much you can volunteer.

“Heather and I do a film intro for each film on the website, and I record and edit them.

“In 2015 I developed an interest in film making and I was successful in getting a grant to make a couple of short films. I would like to get into making more films, but often the first challenge is finding a suitable script, something different.”

Maybe Mike could make a movie on how a film society started because someone wanted to go to the toilet at Signal Point. Maybe Meryl Streep as Carol Gaston? Move over Tarantino.

T: 0438 800 066; e: mike@michaeltye.com.au