Remember when Donald Trump became President of the United States despite rumours that Putin had a pee-pee tape and the infamous “grab them by the pussy” Hollywood Access leak? For punk rock Australian filmmakers Soda Jerk, 2016 was the year reality melted like the fake plastic cheese on a hamburger. But little did they know that the world was about to get even more WTF with the apocalyptic arrival of a global pandemic...
Predominantly crafted in lockdown, Hello Dankness is a work of unparalleled excellence that attempts to exorcise the demons of these last few years. Equal parts terrifyingly funny and despairingly awesome, it wrangles with a cursed timeline ranging from Hilary Clinton’s shock defeat through Trump’s startlingly surreal presidency and onto an insurrection that may yet lead to his return.
Soda Jerk stitches archival news footage and audio into TV show and movie clips, creating a Frankenstein’s monster of a cultural reckoning. Using mind-boggling rotoscope technology not unlike the dark art of the deep fake, they have fictional characters and real-life figures interact, as with right-wing firebrand Pauline ‘please explain’ Hanson spliced into George Miller’s Mad Max in their savagely en pointe Terror Nullius.
Absurd from the outset, Hello Dankness opens with the atrociously tone-deaf Pepsi ad in which Kendall Jenner slakes a riot cop’s thirst. It still feels too dumb to be true. From there, we meet Tom Hanks and Bruce Dern, lifted from Joe Dante’s 1989 satanic panic comedy The Burbs. They’re repositioned as at-loggerheads Bernie and Trump voters, with American Beauty’s Anette Benning as a melting-down Hillary stan. Supremely ridiculous; it works so well.
Layering Morgan Freeman’s narration from the 2005 adaptation of H. G Wells’ War of the Worlds over Jesse Eisenberg, as Mark Zuckerberg, creating Facebook in The Social Network is a masterpiece. “Intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic regarded our planet with envious eyes and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.”
From zombie classics to the Wayne’s World stoners and Zendaya’s Euphoria hallway breakdown via Robocop inserted into Black Lives Matter marches, a magnificent cavalcade of fictional figures sweep into the maelstrom of parodic real-life events. Like the president suggesting we inject disinfectant.
Hello Dankness blurs the line even further, with James Franco and Aziz Ansari plummeting into a flaming crevice in This is the End – hitting different since both have fallen from grace. “It’s too late for you. You’re already in the hole.”
Can we climb back out of the hole we find ourselves in right now? Soda Jerk aren’t in the business of pushing false hope, but their sheer unadulterated brilliance will make you feel better about despairing for our future. And that’s genius.
You can book tickets to see Hello Dankness on the MIFF website here. Directors Soda Jerk will be in attendance for the screening on on Tuesday August 8. They will also appear in the free MIFF Talks event Eyes on America: From Documentary to Satire & In Between on Saturday August 5.