Adolfo Aranjuez is an editor, writer, speaker and dancer. He is currently MIFF’s publications and content manager, and Liminal’s publication editor; previously, he was the editor-in-chief of Archer and the editor of Metro, Australia’s oldest film and media magazine. His essays and poetry have appeared in Meanjin, Right Now, Screen Education, The Manila Review, Cordite and elsewhere, and he has worked, in various capacities, for too many organisations to mention here. He was also a mentor for MIFF 2018’s Critics Campus.
Location: Melbourne (on Boon Wurrung country)
Movie location I call home: 2020-dolfo is less into solipsistic excess than 2018-dolfo (“The Palace of Versailles, as depicted in Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette”, pfft) so – and this is a TV series location, sorry – I’mma say True Blood’s Bon Temps.
Why film criticism matters in 2020: I stand by my 2018 response (thank you, Wayback Machine), but, for 2020 specifically (and beyond), I’d like to emphasise critics’ newfound role – following evolutions to the way many now approach art and entertainment – of navigating the murky waters between portrayal and endorsement, depiction and exploitation, authenticity and appropriation, intent and intelligibility, right to expression and rightful expression. Increasingly, we’re seeing screen-related discourse devolve into discussions of politics-lite: the optics of representation and/or tokenism and/or retconning and/or moralising confused with a deeper investigation of films as texts, as artefacts of culture and place and specific points in time.
It’s a disservice to cinema to flatten all talk of it to what should be ‘allowed’, or what it’s ‘saying’ (or failing to say). The answers to these aren’t simple, and so, instead, we must – and here’s where critics can provide generative prompts – examine what stylistic/technical mechanisms a film’s used, what industrial/sociopolitical conditions it’s emerged from, the broader conversation/s it’s contributing to, the questions raised, the impressions made, the audience reached. Films can be polemical but they’re not always polemics; film can perpetuate ideology, sure, but it can also pave the way for freshly envisaged alternatives. Viewers often need critics to hold their hands as they wade into these areas of grey.
The film or experience that made me want to write about the screen: Critic/scholar extraordinaire Alexandra Heller-Nicholas tickling my ego about an essay on Requiem for a Dream that I wrote for uni (read more, again, via my 2018 Q&A).
One piece of advice I’d give myself as a young critic: Speaking from the vantage point of 2020: Being able to write about stuff you love is a reward, a resource and a responsibility – enjoy it, monetise it, but also know how to put it to good use for the broader community.
A critic who has inspired me: Old-school? Queer-cinema maven B. Ruby Rich. Recently? After meeting her (as a fellow mentor) in 2018, I’ve been extra awestruck by the work of Variety’s Jessica Kiang. Not only is her critical eye razor-sharp, but she has an indelible sense of rhythm and a masterful way of making a piece of analysis read like poetry. (All that and she’s a lovely, super-fun person?!)
Favourite film of the year so far: Hmm, not a film, but I seem to constantly find myself slipping the anime Beastars into conversation, so let’s go with that. Here’s an answer I prepared earlier. And here’s a meme I made.
In the fantasy biopic of my life, I would be played by: It’s slim pickings for hypothetical Hollywood biopic-makers, so they’d probably cast Now Apocalypse’s Avan Jogia, because of the distant resemblance, or, going the half-baked-authenticity route, everyone’s favourite white-passing Filipino, Darren Criss. From the motherland, though, there’s always the chameleonic Paolo Ballesteros!
My MIFF 68½ theme music: Braxton Burks’ various Pokémon Reorchestrated albums – because, when it comes to MIFF films, you gotta catch ’em all.