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If you heard crashes of thunder reverberating through the city’s inner suburbs this past weekend, it may have been a phenomenon the Bureau of Movierology are referring to as “BORLFF” — that is, the first-ever Brisbane Only Rotoscoped Lightning Film Festival! Presented by Two Bit Movie Club, Netherworld, Feature Presentation and New Farm Cinemas, this hyper-specific retrospective offers what we can earnestly describe as one of the most unique assortments of sci-fi and fantasy films that has ever been assembled.
For those unfamiliar with the term, rotoscoping is an animation technique dating back to the silent film era, in which artists trace over still or moving live-action footage, frame by frame, to create their desired effect. It has famously been utilised by the likes of Walt Disney and Ralph Bakshi (Director of Fritz the Cat and The Lord of the Rings animated film), and has since made its way into the digital age, used to model Rocket Raccoon off a real-life good boy, Oreo, in Guardians of the Galaxy. But we’re not here to talk about CGI today. No, we’re here for some good, old-fashioned, painstakingly hand-drawn lightning bolts!
Boasting a total of eleven big-screen offerings, BORLFF does indeed have “such sights to show you”. Comprised of a lovingly curated selection of weird and wonderful films such as Hellraiser and The Addams Family duology, each inclusion crucially features at least one instance of on-screen rotoscoped lightning action. For what purpose? Put simply by the organisers, “Well, because it rules. Obviously.”
Speaking with FilmInk, BORLFF co-director Ben McLeay elaborates: “Growing up, animated lightning effects were pretty much the sickest thing you could see in a movie and tended to indicate that the movie as a whole was going to be very cool. This has so far held true into adulthood.” And he’s certainly not wrong!
I was fortunate enough to catch Forbidden Planet on Sunday night; a cult classic, which, according to the scholars of Two Bit Movie Club, may have actually been the first movie to ever utilise rotoscoping for the purpose of electrostatic squiggly bits. And, truly, the craftsmanship is exquisite. The beauty of such a niche festival theme is that it draws your attention to the artistry that may have otherwise been overshadowed by other elements of the film, such as the groundbreaking (and very expensive!) design of Robby the Robot. The same can be said about each inclusion in the program. Is the electromagnetism of Howard the Duck the major appeal of Marvel’s ’80s oddball? Probably not; but brought into focus, it certainly adds scope to appreciate the film.
What I didn’t anticipate — though, perhaps I should have — was one of the most genuine and informative screening introductions I’ve ever been seated for. Covering everything from quick, fun facts like Forbidden Planet being the first-ever sci-fi flick to depict humans travelling at faster-than-light speeds (in a vessel of their own creation — an important distinction, as noted by the host), to a brief explanation of the matte paintings spied in the background, it’s clear to even the most casual of BORLFF attendees that this is a team who absolutely adore the medium.
Running until August 7, the next cab off the rank is sure to be a hit with Supa-Fans. The outrageously funny Addams Family and The Addams Family Values, starring Supa-Star alumni Christina Ricci and Christopher Lloyd, will screen as a double feature from 6pm this coming Friday, followed by Howard the Duck and Super Mario Bros on Saturday, before closing with Lifeforce and Hellraiser on Sunday night. It’s sure to be an awesome weekend for both cinephiles and storm chasers alike, so why not bolt (heh) on over to the official BORLFF website to book your tickets now?!