Friday, September 19, 2008

Video: Launch of James Boyce's Van Diemen's Land

Tasmanian author and commentator Richard Flanagan launched James Boyce's Van Diemen's Land - a new, groundbreaking history of the settlement of Tasmania - at the North Fitzroy Star in February 2008.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Three Rooms of Melancholia

This week in a Seminar on Constructing the Nation I screened a montage from the opening Ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games; a clip from Obama's Democratic Acceptance Speech and a clip from Three Rooms of Melancholia. For me Honkasalo's haunting film enters into a space which explores the traumatic consequences of militaristic nationalism. With Sarah Palan's furies unfurling across the political landscape - we need more than ever the poet's mind and eye. Thankyou Pirjo for your contemplative, thoughtful film - ultimately a film about the need for tenderness.

Pirjo Honkasalo's director's statement:
Having completed my 'Trilogy of the Sacred and Satanic”(the full-length documentary films Mysterion, Tanjuska and the 7 Devils, and Atman), I felt I had purged myself of what I had sought from the documentary film: its purifying and implacable concreteness. I had given whatever I had to give; to that concretion, an intimation of human silence.
I felt an attraction and attachment to the logic of the dream, to which the fictional film provides the most natural path. The world of the dream is half in the past, half in the future. Its gods swing back and forth between life and death. There is no sense of longing in dreams. Time in dreams is not time in time. I directed the feature film “Fire-Eater”. I have always been stimulated not only by the Sacred and Satanic, but also by the Poetic and Political. It was this that drew me back to the documentary. I don't care for truths, for I see all thought as roiling foam that adheres to nothing nor holds fast; but in the time when I am not asleep or dreaming, I wish to know how the human tribe leads its life, shapes its history and expresses its will, which always seeks to improve the human condition and yet wallows, bewildered, in its blood like some elk gone astray in the city and impaled on the spikes of a cemetery fence. It should not happen this way.
Europe is filled with people who need grace of some kind to cope with their righteous rage. The righteous rage turns, a reflection, against them. And life is no court of justice; justice does not prevail, life does. It rises out of chaos in an ascending spiral, briefly appears to have structure, and descends in the curve of a downward spiral toward fresh chaos.
Stripping away icons of the enemy calls for the acceptance of grace along with righteousness. Grace is illogical and irrational - in other words, a profoundly gratuitous liberation from the compulsion to hate.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

island home country

I started to wake up to race in the 60s. We’d gone, us anthropology students, to build transitional houses for the Pitjantjatjara people…I went with my best friend Moni. I filmed with her for this film. Going to the Pitjantjatjara Lands was a life changing experience for both of us and I asked her to talk about her memories of this Abschol (Aboriginal Scholarships) Work Camp.

You go to a foreign country and that’s what it was, Central Australia, the Aboriginal Reserve. It was just a trip into a completely unknown world. And at that time, in that nineteen or twenty year old head it was just, just responding to the situation in terms of a strange experience. Strange in the sense that it’s unfamiliar.The most powerful one of almost an identity crisis was that toilet incident - where you and I went to look for a toilet, just outside Coober Pedy. It’s so Australian, a town with one pub and in that pub was two toilets, one for blacks and one for whites, obviously. And I stood between that, ‘cause I’m neither black nor white.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


An effect of amnesia is the inability to imagine the future.

strange, I meditate to try and be in the present and stop worrying about the any case here is Chapter 1 Menu design for the film Island Home Country. Thank you Tim Baines - graphic designer - for all your work these past few weeks. Making a DVD is like making another film!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Maidens an autobiographical essay film (1978)

A clip from Maidens

In a way making Island Home Country has been a revisiting of both Maidens and Tasmania, growing up, as I did, in the repressive era of the 1940s-1950s on that island. Returning to Tasmania in 2004 to make this film I began to excavate into the hard crust of my early childhood memories of a peaceful island with the reality of colonisation and the attempted genocide of the island peoples. When I made Maidens I had no idea of colonisation and 'what had really happened'. I lived in an all 'white world'. The Island Home Country project was conceived amidst the bitter time of ‘the history wars’ as ‘a work of mourning’, utilising psychoanalysis to make some kind of reckoning with history. I was interested in the relevance of the Mitscherlich’s research on post war Germans and their seeming total repression of Germany’s painful past straight after the war. As well I wanted to explore the kinds of amnesia represented in both my upbringing and in my films. As Christopher Koch (1987) writes in Crossing the Gap: A Novelist’s Essay, "we who lived (in Tasmania) between the thirties and the fifties were living in the half-light of a dying British Empire; but we only slowly came to realise it. The culture based in London was the imaginary pole star of our world. "

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Visual Representation of Developing Countries

Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam wrote this essay The Visual Representation of Developing Countries by Developmental Agencies and the Western Media in May 1994. But it's still relevant in 2008.

Download This: The Future of Distribution is Just a Click Away

The future, and this present moment of documentary distribution- on line and the role of the traditional educational distributors is discussed in this article in independent, the new on line Independent Film & Video Monthly. This is a timely article as I look at the distribution choices I have for Island Home Country. To be continued....

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

remembering, repeating, working through

We finished the film last night. Assistant editor Andrew Corsi and I working through this last (almost) year to bring this project to completion, a project that began in 2004. Karen Pearlman joined me as editor in 2005. I keep Karen's text on my mobile: when she got my 4 hour assembly (from 40 hours). She texted: A cut is born - 90mins 35sec and 15 frames. Karen delivered picture lock off (52mins)last June 07 and due, in part, to the film's commitment and responsibility to the the Tasmanian Aboriginal Protocols process, Andrew and I have taken almost a year to make the required changes and to then complete the online work. Sharon Jakovsky completed the final mix two weeks ago; So many people to thank - but a special thank you right now is due to Sarah Gibson (script and project consultant), Toula Anastas (production supervisor), Megan McMurchy (consultant producer), my whole extended family, especially Stephen Ginsborg and of course all those who appear in the film: my sister Jan Thornley, Auntie Merle Archer, Cousin Leigh Archer, Aunty Phyllis Pitchford – nunarng, Jim Everett - puralia meenamatta, Julie Gough, Penny X Saxon, Clive Atkinson, Moni Lai Storz, Dur-e Dara, Julie Janson, Anthony Bell, Rinki Bhattacharya and Arundhati Roy.
And here is a 3 min quicktime (Thanks Andrew.) It is from a sequence of the film about private memory and public memory and the fluid movement between the two. I have called the clip remembering, repeating, working through after Freud's 1914 essay. Also the film, for me, is about this process of remembering the past and working it through - both personally and in the public arena. The 2008 Apology is perhaps the most recent example of historical memory enacting and reverberating through our lives in so many ways. Yet, as Noel Pearson says in When Words Aren't Enough, "Blackfellas will get the words, the whitefellas will keep the money. And by Thursday the Stolen Generations and their apology will be over as a political issue."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Australia's Sacred Sites Anzac Day - my pa

Dear Pa,
I am writing this letter to you on Anzac Day eve. Here you are as a young Anzac and this is my narration in an Anzac sequence in my current documentary ISLAND HOME COUNTRY. I am writing to ask your permission to use the photo in the film along with this narration: Here’s some film I shot of white Australia’s national day of mourning - where we remember the dead - fallen in World War 1 at Gallipoli. The old diggers remind me of our Pa. The World War 1 gunner, dying of mustard gas poisoning in his sick bed. A historian says Australia can mourn these soldiers, but what about the Aboriginal warriors who fought for country when the British invaded? Can they be mourned by the nation as well?
The historian I am referring to is Henry Reynolds. I like the way he opens the map to include the colonial war fought between the British and the First Australians as a war we must commemorate too. And that it is important to move beyond Britain and Germany's war, a war we sent our service men to with such blind obedience to Mother England. Here Reynolds talks about these wars, these events we mourn and make monuments to ( or not) , with Rachel Khon and Ken Inglis on The Spirit of Things, ABC 2001.
Henry Reynolds: If we make the centrepiece of our celebration, our invasion of Turkey, a country we knew nothing about and had no direct experience with, I can’t see why we can’t come to terms with our invasion of Australia.

But more than ever before, Pa, I can hold the memory of you and honour your life and what you suffered in the trenches of World War 1. You were a kind and loving grandfather to us all. I think I felt something of the pain you carried from that war, even when I was a child at Invermay at your and Nan's house.
I am thinking of you,
your loving grand daughter, Jeni.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

me and mr greenaway

The frame is from Island Home Country. The text - a quote from David Tiley at AIDC 08 on Greenaway's plenary at the Conference. I, didn't go, of course. No money and at the beginning of the fifth year of making a film that defies to explain this rabbit hole I am down? Who would understand? I can't.

"He is also unimpressed with the documentary tradition, which he calls “false and phony – this desire to tell the truth, the truth is untellable.” We create subjective, individual truths; to assert they are more is “an act of extreme arrogance. I would rather advertise and proselytize myself as a liar in order to be able to tell you the truth of those lies than the opposite way round.”

“I’m duty bound I think as a self conscious filmmaker to always tell you that when you are watching one of my films that you are just watching a film. You are not looking through a window on the world. I’m giving you a film. An extraordinary vocabulary and language which is deeply, deeply artificial.” Peter Greenaway

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The end of empire: Jarman, Swinton and "pre-industrial filmmaking."

Isaac Julien and Tilda Swinton, at the filmmaker's grave. Julien has curated a retrospective on Jarman. Photo Nina Kellgren.
On August 17, 2002, eight years after Jarman's death, Tilda Swinton, published an epistle to  Jarman entitled Letter to an Angel:
 Derek made filmmakers out of all of us who worked with him. Our work came out of the pre-industrial atmosphere of an art context, not the segregated professionalism of industrial filmmaking. This is the atmosphere I carry with me everywhere, like an amniotic sac.  It is the only way I know to work.
Well, some call her essay a lament for a lost era, yet I love the way she keeps it alive in her mind and the way it influences how she thinks and works today. A thinker, is Swinton.

Friday, March 14, 2008

navigating jonas mekas

Immersed in links to international distribution of documentaries - in this era of multi platforms - traditional and new paradigms circling each other...and I stumbled on Jonas Mekas's site: what a find! And then STREAM.

Monday, March 10, 2008

documentary: A Letter to a Boy from His Mother

documentary: A Letter to a Boy from His Mother

why Jonathon..I was so happy to get a response to my blog - so thanks for that (it hardly ever gets a response;  my daughter says: "well Mum, it's because it's so boring like your films." ) And then, the only response I get from you is navigational advice for the poor user who doesn't realise that the link is always in the header of each post I write! I must say I'm more interested in what you think of Tilda's essay than navigational advice...maybe it was irony.....By the way, what do you feel about Tilda's essay?

Sunday, March 9, 2008

A Letter to a Boy from His Mother

Boy , my darling is how Tilda Swinton starts her beautiful essay on cinema and dreams and possibility and ethics : You asked me the other day, just as you were dropping off, what people’s dreams were like before the cinema was invented. You who talk blabberish and chase rabbits in your sleep, hurrumphing like a who never watch television..I’ve been thinking of your question ever since. I need to print her essay out and read it slowly, savouring each word as this actor/writer/cultural activist speaks in a voice little heard in the speed of the age, in the age of speed. 
Tilda Swinton’s State of Cinema address, San Francisco, 2006. First published in Critical Quarterly, vol.48, no.4. Now in Vertigo

Monday, February 18, 2008

the apology

This moment has been a long time coming and it is a watershed. It has reverberations into this film 'Island Home Country' ; so much of the film has been constructed as way through the past, beyond the 'denialism' of the last era(s). And now the bolted door has been unlocked....

Monday 7:40 Feb 14 2008 Michael Mansell. An apology without compensation is a 'half measure'. Michale Mansell,Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre. He's calling for a one billion dollar fund from the federal government and says his home state has set a precedent for paying compensation. Tasmania established a $5 million fund in 2006 for Aboriginal children forcibly removed from their families, the only state to have done so.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Maidens: four generations of a (white) Australian family

I made Maidens over 3 years (from 1975-1977) with a small grant from the Experimental Film Fund. While making my current documentary Island Home Country(in post production) I have thought about this earlier autobiographical film I made thirty years ago.
In a way Maidens reflects a "terra nullus mind" – a mind that perpetuates the white conceit that there were no Aborigines (left) in Tasmania. Returning to the island in 2004 to make Island Home Country I began to excavate into the hard crust of my early childhood memories of a peaceful island with the reality of colonisation and the attempted genocide of the island peoples. It's taken 30 years of digging into the crust of repression, to start to face my own white colonised mind
to be able to make this current film and along those foggy years to make To the Other Shore and co-make For Love or Money, films that pave the way to this film, really. Now I'm nearly 60, perhaps I have the maturity to reflect back and think forwards into what it is to come into country the proper way.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Film For Discussion 1974

This is a still of me and screen mother Jovana Janson from Film for Discussion a film Sydney Womens Flm Group made in the early 1970s. The film was nominated for Best Documentary, Greater Union Awards, Sydney Film Festival 1974. SWFG was one of the first Australian groups to establish itself in the name of “Women’s Liberation”. Film For Discussion is a docu-drama shot in 1970, but not completed until 1973. The film sought to encapsulate in an experimental form issues that were under discussion within the Women’s Liberation Movement and so contribute to action for change. The link is to Ballad Films the website of Martha Ansara, my friend and colleague. Martha was a key person in my becoming a filmmaker. Alongside my Dad who was a film exhibitor. It was Martha who introduced me to the actual possibility of women making their own films. It doesn't seem that radical in 2008. But in 1969 it was! Go on this site and order a copy of the film and also see other films to purchase by Ansara. Film For Discussion screened this year (2017) in the Feminism & Film: Sydney Women Filmmakers, 1970s & 1980s retrospective at the SydneyInternational Film Festival.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Island Home Country's 'ghost of history'

The ghost of the final edit of the film I use an image of me from Woo Joung Kim's short film Mad Woman's Mountain. I play a madwoman - now for my film I re-use it...perhaps an image of an inner voice, a clue to the madness in the substrata  - of the history of colonisation here - in Australia...once you dig into this history it can drive you mad.

I am working on the very final draft of narration before recording when composer Sharon Jakovsky gets back from holidays. I can't believe I am four years into this film now and it's still not finished...I'm not sleeping, worried if I can using a credit card to complete...don't know why the film faced such a hard road with raising a budget. I think it's a great film for SBS also ABC; no luck with FFC, and AFC am not eligible as they reckon I am a developed step by step 5th year now it's coming to completion! I hope with some film festivals and internet that people will begin to see the film and gradually it will find its audience.

The avalanche of documentary on the web can be overwhelming: how to navigate and get some kind of overview - that's the archivist - the librarian in me: here's a technorati link :