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There are two Australian premieres at this year’s Sydney Film Festival:

The closing night film (June 19,1998), Radiance, is a fine and funny film about three Aboriginal sisters. The opening night film, In the Winter Dark, is about fear and loathing in lost regions. Both broaden our film culture and both need to be well understood, writes ANDREW L. URBAN.

Radiance is not likely to be promoted as a "an Aboriginal film"; that would be both misleading (because it is not ABOUT Aboriginal issues as we understand them in the current socio-political climate) and commercially unwise (because mainstream audiences would shy away from it in the mistaken belief it was preaching about Aboriginal socio-political issues).

This is ironic, of course, because in a perfect world it SHOULD be promoted as an Aboriginal film, because it does more to bridge the race gap than any rhetoric can do. Albeit written by a white Australian, Louis Nowra, it is directed and performed by black Australians, about three black Australian sisters. And above all, their humanity is the issue. The fact is, each of the characters could equally be portrayed by a white Australian.

Here are extracts from our upcoming reviews of the film, which is due for release by PolyGram on October 8, 1998 (see at left for synopsis):

"The story isn’t new - sisters brought together by the death of their mother - but there’s a bold individual style in the way that director Rachel Perkins brings Louis Nowra’s concise and compelling screenplay to the screen. Beautifully shot with rich, warm tones, the images are indelible - strong, complex, cinematically intriguing - complemented by an evocative soundtrack which combines wailing guitar, opera and rhythmic passages."
Louise Keller

"Louis Nowra’s script is terrific in every way, from the sharply observed and economical dialogue, to the structure that takes us through the revelations which eventually unite the sisters, revelations to demonstrate that ‘truth sets you free’"
Andrew L. Urban


Following the opening night screening of this film, hundreds of festival first nighters enjoyed a party at the Powerhouse Museum; talk of the film often began with the question: "who killed the animals?" You can take this to be one of two things: either a healthy kick-starter to a debate about the film, OR a sign of discomfort at anything ambiguous or mysterious in a film. The latter suggests a diet of too many fact-filled films in which what happens is more important than how it happens. It could be argued that the animals who are disemboweled in this film are the victims of some animal (dingo?) or even a crazed animal serial killer – but it has nothing to do with what the film is about and doesn’t really matter. It isn’t really the point. The film focuses on the four people whose lives are touched by these events, but the central issue is not the killing of the animals, but what they make of these killings, because of their private pasts and their unique personalities and their particular circumstances. The killings are merely one of the triggers for the emotional and psychological events that make up the film’s totality.

Here are extracts from our upcoming reviews of the film, which is due for release by Globe on September 3, 1998 (see at left for synopsis):

"The nature and complexities of the structure – being largely a story told in flashback through the eyes of Maurice (Barrett) - offer Bogle a chance to use his craft to full effect, with the diversity of the characters and their individual agonies providing the dynamics of the drama. The film engages and fascinates us with its extraordinary focus, its economy, which aids the maintenance of tension, and the setting (in Sydney’s Blue Mountains) adds greatly to the mood of isolation and distance. . . a rich if puzzling film that introduces Bogle as a fascinating new filmmaking talent."
Andrew L. Urban

"Barrett gives a thought-provoking performance as the troubled husband, while Blethyn is compelling and moving. Roxburgh is at his best here - the human and humorous touches he injects are some of the film’s most engaging; Miranda Otto does her best as the demented Ronnie, but the writing of her character seems incomplete. Complex, dark, solemn and enigmatic, In the Winter Dark is not a film for everyone: while its performances and cinematic skills are exemplary, it exudes a cold remoteness, which while intriguing, keep emotions at bay, making it a film to watch rather than to feel. "
Louise Keller

With both these films, the key to fully appreciating them for some people may well lie in ‘getting it’ – although the ‘it’ in each is very different.

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Three sisters reunite after some years apart, for their mother’s funeral. Cressy (Rachael Maza), the eldest of three sisters, is a diva - an opera singer who is reluctant to visit the past and definitely doesn’t want to share it with her sisters. Mae (Trisha Morton-Thomas), who has stayed behind looking after mum, believes that Cressy hasn’t shared enough. Nona (Deborah Mailman), the youngest and the party girl, just wants them to all be one happy family. She may even help grow the family if her pregnancy test is accurate… Family secrets and personal conflicts start to unravel.

CAST: Rachael Maza, Deborah Mailman, Trisha Morton-Thomas

DIRECTOR: Rachel Perkins

PRODUCER: Ned Lander, Andrew Myer

SCRIPT: Louis Nowra


EDITOR: James Bradley

MUSIC: Alistair Jones





A psychological drama around four people in a remote country village. Maurice (Ray Barrett) and Ida (Brenda Blethyn) are on old married couple who’ve said all they have to say to each other decades ago. One neighbour is Murray Jacob (Richard Roxburgh), a lonely, intense man with a tragic past; the other is a late arrival, a young woman, Ronnie (Miranda Otto), who is six months pregnant and recently abandoned by her boyfriend. Something is killing the local animals, and Ronnie’s pregnancy stirs up memories of the Stubbs’ son’s cot death. Fears and shadows play on their minds, making the four uneasy associates as animals are found disemboweled around their houses.

CAST: Ray Barrett, Brenda Blethyn, Miranda Otto, Richard Roxburgh,

DIRECTOR: James Bogle

PRODUCER: Rosemary Blight

SCRIPT: (Based on the novella by Tim Winton)


EDITOR: Suresh Ayyar

MUSIC: Peter Cobbin


RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes


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