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Last year Margot Nash invited me to introduce her personal essay film The Silences as part of her farewell seminar program: Stepping into the Unknown - The work and legacy of Margot Nash in the School of Communication, FASS, UTS, December 6-7 2018.

Still from The Silences
I was happy to participate as a colleague and friend of Margot's and also because The Silences is a very special and tender film. Margot has given much in her teaching at UTS over many decades, so it meant a lot to be part of this significant moment in her life's journey. As well, I am a practitioner of the personal essay film and love this form of film-making. Autobiographical and essay filmmaking were so much part of Issues in Documentary, (a post-graduate unit I taught at UTS during 2002-2013), so I like to keep connected to the genre. Personal documentaries have really flourished in the last few decades with the impact of digital technologies and social media; there is now a significant corpus of texts.

Here are the edited notes to my talk:
"Firstly I am going to contextualise The Silences in its genre or mode and then talk a little about the film itself. The Silences takes it place in the rich and diverse genre of the essay film, the autobiographical film and the personal film. As well, we can place it in the dynamic tradition of women’s and feminist filmmaking which erupted during the 1970s women’s liberation movement – which Margot and I were both so strongly involved.

International filmmakers working in these modes were influential on our own filmmaking, too. From the 1950s-1960s French New Wave, with master essayists Agnes Varda and Chris Marker; the New German filmmakers, Helma Sanders-Brahms and her film Germany, Pale Mother and Jutta Bruckner’s film on her mother, Do Right and Fear No-oneto name just a few. 


Margot Nash, Jeni Thornley with Agnes Varda
 Creteil Women's Film Festival, Paris 1999
The development of such personal films was extensive over subsequent decades with American filmmakers like Michelle Citron and her film Daughter Rite,  Canadian filmmakers, Anne Claire Poirier with Tu as Crie and Sarah Polley and her film documentary The stories we tell – influencing Margot's thinking around the The Silences.

Still from Tu as Crie
In Australia, many  women filmmakers have been increasingly drawn to this expressive mode of autobiography – its subjective and personal style allowing for deep introspection, often crossing the borders between fiction and nonfiction, public and private, by using  an array of self- reflexive techniques. These films include my own 1978 film Maidens, along with many other local films.

Still from Maidens
Essie Coffey’s My Survival as an Aboriginal, Corinne Cantrill’s In this Life’s Body, Mitzi Goldman’s HatredTracy Moffat’s auto-ethnographic Night Cries, Gill Leahy’s My Life without Steve. More recently we have Sophia Turkiewicz’s Once My Mother, Su Goldfish’s  The Last Goldfish, and Jane Castle’s documentary (currently in post production) about her filmmaker mother Lilias Fraser, When the Cameras Stopped Rolling; and not to forget, William Yang’s unique autobiographical performance and film works, Sadness, in particular.


The Silences enters this corpus of innovative films and shares, too, many of their textual strategies–piercing into the heart of repression – the filmmaker peeling back layers one by one – to gaze directly into the mirror of self, family and society.  Frequently, in these films, there is a personal, subjective narration – the “I” voice. And often they are inter-textual, drawing on film and photographic sources from the filmmaker’s personal archive and film work.

Agnes Varda’s Beaches of Agnes and Sophia Turkiewicz’s Once my Mother are distinctive inter-textual films, as is The Silences. In The Silences Margot draws on her own family photographs and skilfully weaves scenes from her previous films, such as Vacant Possession, and takes, if you like, a second look at these texts, in the context of her family and its secrets.


We, the viewers, might now experience the original text on a deeper layer, looking back along with the filmmaker’s probing, self reflexive, gaze. This inter-textuality reveals, as Margot writes (quote) “the psychological context in which the earlier films were produced, allowing the viewer to understand the relationship of creativity to experience”. 

I also suggest that this intertextuality – because it involves juxtaposing excerpts from fictional films into the documentary mode – produces what documentary theorist Stella Bruzzi refers to (quoting Vivian Sobchack) as “the charge of the real”. Now we read fiction as documentary evidence of family trauma – such fleshy bodies – viewer, filmmaker and persons filmed – all joined together; this affect is striking in its intensity.

Sophia Turkiewicz (R) and her mother (L)
Susan Sontag, when writing about Hans Syberberg’s monumental film, Our Hitler, a Film from Germanyrefers to Syberberg’s process as undertaking “the work of mourning”, after Freud’s famous essay Mourning and Melancholia (1917).

Still Our Hitler
Here Syberberg develops an aesthetics of repetition and recycling. It takes timeto work through grief, argues Sontag – a process of remembering, repeating and working through (Freud, 1914)

In The Silences we sense this aesthetics at work too; certain key images in family photographs are examined and re-examined for clues – the clues reverberating into the excerpts from Margot’s archive of constructed dramatic films.

Still The Silences
Sontag’s reflection on duration is also relevant to Margot’s way of working. The Silences was self financed and produced over some years, outside any traditional film financing organisations and linked creatively alongside Margot’s UTS affiliation and several artist/filmmaker residencies, both local and international. The film is really made in the spirit of independence – free from the so often formulaic expectations that the state financing bureaucracies and broadcasters impose. As well, it requires a lot of trust and stamina to work in this way; and so often films produced like this really do have a unique quality.

The introspective autobiographical essay form, which women filmmakers seem particularly drawn to, also offers what scholar Frances Lionnet calls a ‘space of possibility’:  a space to reflect, to consider anew. Here the filmmaker sees her own personal history implicated in larger social processes – marking a dynamic shift where she becomes the agent of transformation.


Still Beaches of Agnes
 The intention and capacity to look directly into the trauma of the family is served well by the personal essay form, too. The very definition of essay is “to try”, to weigh up, and in a film like The Silences this reflective and reflexive process forms Margot’s inner landscape. This is an intimate journey into Margot’s family history and we move with her to a deeper understanding of the silences buried deep beneath the surfaces of family life. 

Documentary film theorist, Bill Nichols, in dialogue with the home movie essayist Peter Forgács said,  "I experience your films as a gift, an unexpected act of generosity or love..." And I feel that too about The Silences. We are really privileged tonight to join with Margot on this journey and to watch the film with her here! Thankyou."

Still The Silences

Dr. Jeni Thornley
Hon Research Associate
School of Communication
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
University of Technology, Sydney
http://www.jenithornley.com/

11 March 2019








Posted: March 12, 2019, 3:14 am

memory = film 
a filmmakers diary
a film poem about time passing


Memory = film: a filmmakers diary is my current digital film project created from my super 8 film archive (1976-2003) and currently in development. The film is an experiment; what it is about is still forming as it will take shape in editing. Perhaps it is like the mercury I once held in the palm of my hand at the 1950s dentist – moving, glistening, shining – with form, yet formless.

The impulse for this film comes from the Japanese death poets. In Japan elders and (Buddhist monks) write poems to express their feelings about the transience of life and the inevitable passing of all things (jisei: “farewell poem to life”); householders write poems as a gift to their children – a legacy of beauty and insight gathered over years. I like this idea– the contemplation of ageing and approaching death, yet brimming with the lightness and beauty of life. 

I borrow moonlight
for this journey of a
million miles
(Saikaku 1730)

 A friend gave me Yoel Hoffman's book Japanese Death Poems years ago and I always carry it around -  thinking, musing, writing - gradually realising (around 2013) that I could make a film in the spirit of this poetic tradition.  Then, only a few weeks ago I discovered that the wonderful video artist Bill Viola has done just this!  So then, everything is perhaps borrowed! The other filmmaker I return to in the vein of death poetry filmmaking (and the use of the home movie archive) is Derek Jarman and his great innovative film Blue that he made when he was in hospital dying (1994)Yet, ultimately as Thacker in his essay Black Illumination: Zen and the poetry of death writes, quoting death poet Toko:
Death poems
are mere delusion
death is death
(Toko 1795)



What I know about the content of the film –  it is composed of my super 8, filmed between 1976-2003. As well a layer of the film reflects films I have made and the politics of each era; so there may be sequences from my earlier documentaries: Maidens (1978), For Love or Money (1983), To the Other Shore (1996) and Island Home Country (2008). Other films and TV programs that reference my film-work may be part of it - including Quite a Long Development  (1979) on making Maidens; an interview about For Love or Money on The Mike Walsh Show (1983); The Journey, ABC (1985) a short film about filmmaking and motherhood; an ABC broadcast about To The Other Shore and psychoanalysis (1996); Maestros of the Archive: The Art of Archival Documentary, OzDox (2014), Women's Gaze and the Feminist Film Archive, AGNSW (2015). 

The production contextfor the film is the School of Communication, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) at UTS, where I am an Honorary Research Associate. Toula Anastas, FASS MediaLab, is Production Supervisor. The National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA Canberra), acquired and digitized the super8 collection during 2016-2017.
 
I am now about to start editing a rough assembly in a free form way, developing a sense of the film’s main theme, shape and form. I will then crowd source to raise the post production budget - and   work with an editor and sound designer-composer. The film will have a multi-platform release of film festivals, broadcast television, galleries and online.

Why the title: “memory = film”? Film, unlike creative forms like painting, sculpture or writing, is ephemeral. Like theatre and music it, too, is passing by. The movement of film through the gate of the camera, through the projector, (both film and digital), parallels the movement of life – its transience, its flow; watching film we experience time passing, and like the mercury of old we cannot really hold it still. Also some of the super8 is degraded with time; the colour might have faded, mould has eaten away at the celluloid; the body of the film is ageing, as is mine. I will not hide it. These fragments of life on my 137 rolls and 9 composite reels of super8 trigger my memory as it fades with age. 


All this happened. Yes, I was in the women’s liberation movement, yes I had a share in women’s land, yes I marched against the war in Vietnam, yes I filmed super8 on the set of Journey Among Women, on Anzac Day, Australia Day and the Aboriginal Awakening ceremonies; yes I loved women and men; yes I have a husband, children and grand children; and I had a therapist; and yes I made these films. Here is the evidence, it was real, I filmed it. Memory = film. And, so, I share this “farewell film poem to life” (jisei), tenderly with you.

Clear sky
The way I came by once
I now go back by
(Gitoku 1754)

Posted: October 20, 2018, 5:55 am
Dear Reader, I wrote this blog for Anzac Day in  2014. I re-post it as it is as relevant today as then. To work towards peace is for me the path. I honour our Grandpa who fought in France; he was no lover of war- and his letters home to our beloved Nana are testament of that. So, rather than a photo of him in war uniform I post this photo of him diving from the bridge at the Gorge, Launceston (he is 3rd from our left).

Freud wrote his essay 'Remembering, 'Repeating and Working Through' (1914) on the eve of World War 1. Although not addressing the specific politics of war and Europe, in the essay he suggests that what is repressed will repeat endlessly and project itself onto other places, people and things, unless one undertakes 'the work of mourning'.




During World War 2 in 1938 Freud and family members escaped the Nazis by re-settling in London; four of his sisters died in Nazi Germany's concentration camps (see The Nazi Who Saved Sigmund Freud).


German psychoanalysts Alexander and Margarethe Mitschterlich subsequently applied Freud's insights to Germany in their book The Inability to Mourn: Principles of Collective Behaviour (1967). Here they discuss why the Holocaust, the war crimes, and national guilt was not dealt with adequately in post-war German society: 'The Mitscherlichs confronted Germany with a bitter testimonial that many found difficult to bear: Germans, they wrote, are indifferent and lethargic; they lack empathy for the victims of the Nazi genocide and are caught up in "nationalist self-centeredness.' 

 'Unhappy the land that is in need of heroes'
 (Brecht, Life of Galileo, 1943)
As the war drums beat all around and on this Anzac Day 2017, I sense the need for caution; we need analytic thinking around war and violence (in all its forms) at this time; our mainstream media and government offer little deep analytic thinking. Lest we forget all who suffer in war – the victims and the perpetrators on all sides. Let us not go down the path of an uncritical patriotism. Let us not forget that the military take-over of Aboriginal lands by the British, from 1788 on - and the war waged by Aboriginal warriors - is not acknowledged officially by Australia or the Australian War Memorial.

To our dear Pa
I honour and remember our Pa (Mum's dad) who was a Digger in World War 1. He wrote many letters home with details of the war and how it affected him and others - fellow soldiers, nurses, civilians. Perhaps his story has contributed to me becoming a pacifist.



Our Pa, (Tom William Butcher) and his postcard sent to our Nan
in Tasmania (Wynne Ila Lette), from France 10th Dec.,1917 
I have never marched formally on Anzac Day (one day I will before I die to honour Pa). But I do feel strange about it. I don't relate to nationalism, patriotism or war; and the fact that the military take-over of Aboriginal lands by the British from 1788 on-and the war waged by Aboriginal warriors - is not acknowledged on this day. Why? Some of these difficult issues have been addressed by journalist Michael Green in an essay 'Lest We Remember: the Australian War Memorial and the Frontier Wars'. 'It follows an ongoing argument concerning Aboriginal Warriors who lost their lives in the wars against colonial forces'.

'no we don’t want to be stuck alongside you mob,
we had to fight you'. 
Jim Everett, pura-lia meenamatta
'Near the end of his latest book, Forgotten War Henry Reynolds makes a demand: the Australian War Memorial must commemorate the frontier wars. The book examines Australia’s violent colonial history, and reaches into some of our most challenging public debates – about land rights, sovereignty, and reconciliation...I also spoke to playwright Jim Everett, a Plangerrmairreenner man, of the Ben Lomond people in northern Tasmania. ‘If they asked me, I’d say “no we don’t want to be stuck alongside you mob – we had to fight you”. If we want to remember our heroes, then we should be doing it ourselves,’ he says. ‘We should be dedicating a part of country to our fallen heroes – perhaps we could mark it with a rock. I don’t like the idea of statues.’
Jim Everett (arrested) while protecting the kutalayna site, April 2011

"In memory of all women of all countries, 
raped in all wars" 

The only time I ever went to an Anzac Day March was when women marched under a banner: "In memory of all women of all countries, raped in all wars" c1981. I filmed it on super 8: the women's faces with gravitas and dignity marching straight into the waiting police paddy wagons, as the Anzac Day organisors wouldn't give permission for us to march with that banner. The great unspoken of war.

 Canberra 1981 (?) (re the red circled person in the pic- I have no idea who it is!). 
For further discussion see Catriona Elder's essay, ' "I Spit on Your Stone": National Identity, Women Against Rape and the Cult of Anzac' ;  it is also in Maja Mikula's book (ed), Women, Activism and Social Change, Routledge, London, 2005, pp. 71-81.
Posted: April 24, 2018, 6:13 am

This is a still of me and screen mother Jovana Janson from Film for Discussion a film Sydney Women's Flm Group made in the early 1970s. I play a young woman in a crisis about work, life and identity- triggered by her encounter with feminism. 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 and 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 2017, 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 Feminism and Film: Sydney Women Filmmakers, 1970s-1980s at Sydney International Film Festival.
Posted: September 14, 2017, 7:56 am
Sydney Film Festival Retrospective June 2017
Feminism and Film Sydney Women Filmmakers, 1970s-1980s 
L-R filmmakers Jeni Thornley, Megan McMurchy, Susan Charlton (curator),
Margot Nash,  Martha Ansara

'From archive into the future' 
 A great review in this latest issue of RealTime by Lauren Carroll Harris. She writes about 'For Love or Money'  (McMurchy, Nash, Oliver & Thornley 1983) and the recent Sydney Film Festival's Retrospective Feminism & Film: Sydney Women Filmmakers, 1970s & 1980s 

"For Love or Money stands today as a major work of historical research,  a masterclass of montage editing and a classic essay film". 
still from For Love or Money: Barmaids Strike, Newcastle c 1962
(Tribune Archives, thanks Martha Ansara)
Harris also writes about We Aim to Please, My Survival as an Aboriginal and Two Laws - as well as taking on the whole dilemma of archiving and distributing classic films, what she calls the Lost Found Paradox. She also writes about the demise of film making collectives and the slow moving pace of real gender equality both in our so called film industry and in society generally. A really insightful essay! A tribute to our era of filmmaking and also to this recent Sydney Film Festival curatorship by Susan Charlton. Congrats all!

Digging around in this past (and also our present) collective memories are faded for exact dates and the narrative around these early filmmaking days. After all I was 21 when, with Martha Ansara and the Sydney Women's Film Group, we started workshopping Film For Discussion (1974), and now 44 years has passed!



In a previous blog post "The archive of the self and deconstructing the national archive"  (2014) I wrote that this mirror shot was emotionally too much for me to deal with at the time, yet it became foundational in my subsequent turn to a kind of poetic, found-footage, autobiographical film-making style in Maidens, and subsequent films, developing an ‘archive of the self’. This is what I mean by duration – how long it takes to gain insight into one’s intention with a piece of archival footage – as an internal process of the psyche.

Back to gathering the threads of what happened back then....what follows for now are a few rough notes on early women's filmmaking groups back in the 1970s (and thanks Carole Kostanich for your recent email).

We all see and experience this early history from our own perspective and involvement- so the dates and details will naturally differ.  I remember being part of the  SWFG formation,  The Sydney Filmmaker's Co-op, Women Vision, The Women's Film Workshop 74; the lobby for 50% female intake into AFTRS in IWYear 1975, the International Women's Film Festival 1975, the Women's Film Fund (I became Manager in 1984-85); and later the Women's Film Units, FFW formation 1978; Film Action formation, and all the inter-related women's groups (like Women and Labour etc) and the many political organisations all connected.



Summary
  •   Feminist Film Workers formed in 1978 (as a splinter group of the Sydney Women’s Film Group). The membership of this seven member group was:  L-R Beth McRae, Carole Kostanich, Sarah Gibson, Jeni Thornley, Martha Ansara, Margot Oliver, Susan Lambert
  •  With a Women's Film Fund Grant,  FFW set up at the Women's Warehouse, Ultimo (Sarah Gibson became the full time distribution worker). The Women and Work Film's (later FLOM's ) first office was in WWH (me, Margot Oliver and Megan). Later we moved to edit the film with our editor Margot Nash at 'Lorraine', Redfern.

For Love or Money team: L-R Margot Nash, Megan McMurchy, Jeni Thornley, Margot Oliver.
photo: Sandy Edwards 1983

 In Film News (vol 8, No 12, Dec 1978, p.7)  the FFW "announced" their rationale. Also see Jeni Thornley and Sarah Gibson "Making Ends Meet- Theory and Practice: the Development of the Feminist Film Workers", Scarlet Woman, No.9. (nd., c1978 or 1979).

Also Don't Shoot Darling : Womens Independent Filmmaking in Australia (ed Blonski 1987) has several articles on women and film groups (by Jenni Stott and Jeni Thornley) incl photographs connected to the FFW (by Sandy Edwards).

"In 1979 the Minto Discussion Weekend was held where women filmmakers and theorists came together to debate film, politics and theory.  It was an initiative of the Feminist Film Workers who formed in 1978 as a splinter group of the Sydney Women’s Film Group to focus specifically on education, distribution and exhibition of feminist films."

"In 1979 the Catalogue of Independent Women's Films was published by the SWFG (ed B.Allysen). Early in 1979, a full-time position in distribution at the Coop was secured for a women's filmworker, after the FFW were able to show that the rental of women's films accounted for 50% of the total rental income at the Co-op. In the same year, the FFW secured a grant of $20,000 from the Women's Film Fund to operate an office away from the Co-op and pay a full-time worker who would who would engage in the promotion of the feminist films in its collection, to increase print sales...The Co-op continued to handle the rental of FFW's films, however" (Stott in Blonski (ed) 1987: 120).

 With the Women's Film Fund Grant, and with Sarah Gibson as full time distribution worker, some of the events and activities of FFW included:
  • The Film/Theory practice weekend, Minto, Nov 1978 (Martha Ansara wrote a Film News essay
  • "Women propose a New Feminist Cinema", Season Sydney Film-Co-op, Dec 1978
  • "The Image of Women in Australian Feature Films" Forum, Sydney Film Festival June 1979 (Carolyn Strachan presenter).
  • Publication of FFW Discussion Papers No.1, 1979) (Thornley in Blonski (ed) 1987: 89-92).
Scarlet Woman holdings (Trove NLA search)
 A note: the 2017 Melbourne Women in Film Festival (MIFF http://www.mwff.org.au) tributed our 1975 International Women's Film Festival that toured all Australian capital cities. There were collectives in all states. I was involved as one of several National Co-odinators - the list of International films and Australian films we curated for the Festival is impressive. This Festival was a significant introduction to the history of international women's filmmaking which we had been so little exposed to in Australia.  For many of the international films we negotiated distribution contracts with Sydney Filmmakers Co-op (Sian Mitchell MIFF Co-ordinator) and I  are currently trying to locate the whereabouts of these prints).

The MIFF 2017 program included a program which revisited the aims of our original Festival (this meant a lot to me, as I spent more than a year working on this Festival).  Also MIFF screened my first film (with Dasha Ross) Still Life 1974 and linked the festival to peephole online film journal, which in March 2017 published several essays on the 1975 festival and women's filmmaking.

"This edition of Peephole Journal looks to commemorate not only the launch of the Melbourne Women in Film Festival, but to give some attention to the diversity of women's filmmaking, the multitude of women's perspectives evident in its storytelling, and the place of women in criticism.

I wrote this  essay, Looking at Women and Festival Director Sian Mitchell writes about the 75 Festival and MIFF  in her editorial;and Loma Bridge writes about Anne Severson's Near the Big Chakra (1975) and Sharon Hennessey's What I Want (1971):  Statu[t]es of Liberties...

More to follow!









Posted: August 5, 2017, 2:43 am
Listen in to this audio conversation with Gayle Austin (2SER's Curved Radio, July 2016) and Jeni Thornley on the making of  'Island Home Country'. Gayle is interested in the use of music in the film; Jeni also discusses Sharon Jakovsky's work as composer and sound designer on the film.

This poetic 52min cine-essay, about race and Australia's colonised history and how it impacts into the present, is screening online  Monday 25 July 10am - Tuesday 26 July 10am (AEST) anytime in that 24hours, and then weekly until December on the Culture Unplugged Film Festival site here:

 
Posted: July 22, 2016, 9:29 am

'Remembrance, in the wake of suicide'

If you haven't read any Deborah Bird Rose (anthropologist, eco-philosopher in environmental humanities) – her recent blog: "Remembrance, in the wake of suicide" is a confronting beginning: she offers her very thoughtful reflections on the disturbances in the ongoing colonising nation called Australia: "Gerry Georgatos, a specialist on Indigenous suicide, describes the problem as a ‘humanitarian crisis’. Also read Bird Rose's ground breaking 2004 book: "Reports from a Wild Country: Ethics for Decolonisation"

'Discovery, settlement or invasion?'

One might hope that the tired old (fundamentally racist) 'history wars' argument was a thing of the past, but no! Sydney's 'Daily Telegraph' front page (March 30) headlined: "WHITEWASH: UNSW rewrites the history books to state Cook ‘invaded' Australia...Nutty professors want to Cook the record books".  In another thoughtful essay in The Conversation: "Discovery, settlement or invasion?" Peter Kilroy (Postdoctoral Fellow, King's College London) argues for critical thinking around language: "there is a link between the language you use, the recognition of Indigenous peoples today and the redistribution of wealth, property and power to those peoples. It is not merely about being “politically correct” nor is it restricted to the past".









'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times'.


The other day I read of a new light show art installation by British artist Bruce Munro at Uluru: "Field of Light": the tourist mecca – canapés and champagne while gazing at the wonders of the Red Centre at sunset...meanwhile Rosalie Kunoth-Monks (OAM, 2015 NT person of the year and Arrernte-Alyawarra Elder) says that Aboriginal people living in remote outstation Utopia are starving:
"Utopia represents sixteen remote outstations 260 kms north east of Alice Springs. Rosalie lives in one of the outstations with her daughter Ngarla and grandchildren. Rosalie and Ngarla have reported that the elderly in the communities have not been receiving their regular daily meals as expected through the current aged care program. When meals have arrived they have not been nutritious".
















Posted: April 10, 2016, 3:40 am

Militarism, Projection and Anzac Day - a few reflections.

Dear Reader, I wrote this blog for Anzac Day in  2014. I re-post it as it is as relevant today as then. To work towards peace is for me the path. I honour our Grandpa who fought in France; he was no lover of war- and his letters home to our beloved Nana are testament of that. So, rather than a photo of him in war uniform I post this photo of him diving from the bridge at the Gorge, Launceston (he is 3rd from our left).


Freud wrote his essay 'Remembering, 'Repeating and Working Through' (1914) on the eve of World War 1. Although not addressing the specific politics of war and Europe, in the essay he suggests that what is repressed will repeat endlessly and project itself onto other places, people and things, unless one undertakes 'the work of mourning'.




During World War 2 in 1938 Freud and family members escaped the Nazis by re-settling in London; four of his sisters died in Nazi Germany's concentration camps (see The Nazi Who Saved Sigmund Freud).




German psychoanalysts Alexander and Margarethe Mitschterlich subsequently applied Freud's insights to Germany in their book The Inability to Mourn: Principles of Collective Behaviour (1967). Here they discuss why the Holocaust, the war crimes, and national guilt was not dealt with adequately in post-war German society: 'The Mitscherlichs confronted Germany with a bitter testimonial that many found difficult to bear: Germans, they wrote, are indifferent and lethargic; they lack empathy for the victims of the Nazi genocide and are caught up in "nationalist self-centeredness.' 

 'Unhappy the land that is in need of heroes'
 (Brecht, Life of Galileo, 1943)
As the war drums beat all around and on this Anzac Day 2017, I sense the need for caution; we need analytic thinking around war and violence (in all its forms) at this time; our mainstream media and government offer little deep analytic thinking. Lest we forget all who suffer in war – the victims and the perpetrators on all sides. Let us not go down the path of an uncritical patriotism. Let us not forget that the military take-over of Aboriginal lands by the British, from 1788 on - and the war waged by Aboriginal warriors - is not acknowledged officially by Australia or the Australian War Memorial.

To our dear Pa
I honour and remember our Pa (Mum's dad) who was a Digger in World War 1. He wrote many letters home with details of the war and how it affected him and others - fellow soldiers, nurses, civilians. Perhaps his story has contributed to me becoming a pacifist.


Our Pa, (Tom William Butcher) and his postcard sent to our Nan
in Tasmania (Wynne Ila Lette), from France 10th Dec.,1917 

I have never marched formally on Anzac Day (one day I will before I die to honour Pa). But I do feel strange about it. I don't relate to nationalism, patriotism or war; and the fact that the military take-over of Aboriginal lands by the British from 1788 on-and the war waged by Aboriginal warriors - is not acknowledged on this day. Why? Some of these difficult issues have been addressed by journalist Michael Green in an essay 'Lest We Remember: the Australian War Memorial and the Frontier Wars'. 'It follows an ongoing argument concerning Aboriginal Warriors who lost their lives in the wars against colonial forces'.

'no we don’t want to be stuck alongside you mob,
we had to fight you'. 
Jim Everett, pura-lia meenamatta
'Near the end of his latest book, Forgotten War Henry Reynolds makes a demand: the Australian War Memorial must commemorate the frontier wars. The book examines Australia’s violent colonial history, and reaches into some of our most challenging public debates – about land rights, sovereignty, and reconciliation...I also spoke to playwright Jim Everett, a Plangerrmairreenner man, of the Ben Lomond people in northern Tasmania. ‘If they asked me, I’d say “no we don’t want to be stuck alongside you mob – we had to fight you”. If we want to remember our heroes, then we should be doing it ourselves,’ he says. ‘We should be dedicating a part of country to our fallen heroes – perhaps we could mark it with a rock. I don’t like the idea of statues.’
Jim Everett (arrested) while protecting the kutalayna site, April 2011

"In memory of all women of all countries, 
raped in all wars" 


The only time I ever went to an Anzac Day March was when women marched under a banner: "In memory of all women of all countries, raped in all wars" c1981. I filmed it on super 8: the women's faces with gravitas and dignity marching straight into the waiting police paddy wagons, as the Anzac Day organisors wouldn't give permission for us to march with that banner. The great unspoken of war.

 Canberra 1981 (?) (re the red circled person in the pic- I have no idea who it is!). 
For further discussion see Catriona Elder's essay, ' "I Spit on Your Stone": National Identity, Women Against Rape and the Cult of Anzac' ;  it is also in Maja Mikula's book (ed), Women, Activism and Social Change, Routledge, London, 2005, pp. 71-81.
Posted: April 24, 2015, 10:01 pm

Why an image from Sunless? Well, a blog on Sebald, Vertigo: Collecting& Reading W.G. Sebald, compares Marker and Sebald.
This site also reviews Australian author Deane Blackler's book, “Reading W.G. Sebald: Adventure and Disobedience”. I have found her analysis of Sebald's narrator persona insightful. She looks at how we read Sebald and argues that his books call forth a proactive reader: one who is challenged to question the text by his use of seemingly documentary photographs, the pseudo-autobiographical narrators.

In Island Home Country I peer into my own ‘white’ mind, and create a narrator – a staged performance – of white instability, uncertainty, fissure. As Blackler reflects in her study of W.G. Sebald ‘how can the reader trust this mad writer narrator as a guide'… as in this film, I create a narrator who is ‘trying’ to make a film, a filmmaker who ‘forgets to turn on the microphone’, a narrator who says, ‘this film is dissolving’; a narrator who loses her way. ‘Where is the reader to go? If we follow a ‘mad’ narrator, won’t we be implicated in (her) pathology?….This self-conscious writer, this constructed ‘I’ is not a stable authorial figure. Blackler argues that this unstable, figure gives birth to a ‘disobedient reader’, one who has to break ranks, cross an unstable line, in order to stay empathic.
Posted: June 27, 2009, 10:53 pm
Distribution of Island Home Country: where to purchase DVD's, & the recently published ATOM Study Guide. Island Home Country is a poetic cine-essay (52 mins) about Australia’s colonised history and how it impacts into the present. It offers insights into how various individuals reckon with the traumatic legacies of British colonialism and its race based policies.

Island Home Country was recently offered a broadcast contract with National ABC Television: Sunday Arts Program July 2009.
Screenings:
TAC International Film and Video Festival, Oregon USA May 2009.
Premiered at Brisbane International Film Festival August 2008.
Screened in the Film Program, 'Re-Orienting Whiteness' Conference (Monash University) December, 2008.
Awards
Nominated: Best Achievement in Sound for a Documentary, Australian Screen Sound Awards 2008. (Sound Designer Sharon Jakovsky; Sound Consultant Danielle Weissner).
High Commendation - UTS Reconciliation Award, UTS Human Rights Awards, October 2008.

The Island Home Country ATOM Study Guide is now available a free PDF from Metro ATOM (Australian Teachers of Media)

Purchase DVD's direct from Anandi Films or
The Education Shop
Posted: January 10, 2009, 10:51 pm

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.
Posted: September 20, 2008, 5:52 am
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.
Posted: September 5, 2008, 10:07 am

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.

Moni
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.
Posted: July 29, 2008, 8:13 am
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 future.....in 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!
Posted: June 19, 2008, 8:56 am
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. "
Posted: June 1, 2008, 3:18 am
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.
Posted: May 26, 2008, 1:12 am


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....
Posted: May 25, 2008, 9:59 pm
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."
Posted: May 1, 2008, 5:17 am

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.
Posted: April 24, 2008, 3:07 am
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 completion....how 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
Posted: March 17, 2008, 6:57 am
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.
Posted: March 15, 2008, 7:36 pm

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.
Posted: March 15, 2008, 3:29 am
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?
Posted: March 11, 2008, 1:06 am
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 dog..you 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
Posted: March 10, 2008, 5:10 am
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.
Posted: February 19, 2008, 4:34 am