Opening night: a collection of straight narratives as if experimental filmmaking did not exist. Most of the festival, in fact, leaned safely on the conventional. Only occasionally did it slip towards the avant garde a word often used disparagingly for anything off-centre or without mass appeal.
I raise this colloquial definition because one short film stood out as embracing a strong sense of avant garde, yet without excluding those unaware of how to read its codes. Restoration (1999), produced by Kate Riedl, is spliced into two alternating halves. One tells the simple story of a young male photographer in 1912 who captures an image of a woman in a remote farm in NSW. At tense moments the film shifts to a theatrical space in which the two main characters engage in an increasingly intimate contemporary dance ritual. The two narratives inform each other, as it becomes clear that beneath the surface of the man’s photograph lies the woman’s fierce determination for escape.
Director and DOP, Cordelia Beresford brings a wide range of skills to the task of constructing the large palette of cinematic devices and textures this kind of film requires. Her training at the Australian Film, Television & Radio School (AFTRS), combined with film experience in England, lends Restoration both an Australian and universal grain. Instead of merely filming dance, she explores numerous cinematic approaches, exploiting the physical closeness and detail that cannot be achieved on stage.