Australian Cinema - upcoming events
Smart Street Films
'We feel we are group of upstart boys. We’re the outsiders, the production assistants. When you make a feature you are supposed to have certain people as photographers, sound men, etc. When you go outside that area you rub up against the grain’ (Haydn Keenan, Cinema Papers, January 1974).
2011 saw the untimely passing of a central figure in the Australian film renaissance, Esben Storm (1950-2011). Storm and collaborator Haydn Keenan’s (1951-) Smart Street Films was a pioneering production house and a ‘salon’ for one of the crucial aesthetic (and in many ways political) filmmaking options Australian screen culture had before it, as feature production revived at the beginning of the 1970s. Their work exemplified the realist (but sometimes magic-realist) ‘Poor Cinema’ – the low-budget independent productions then coming out of inner Sydney and Melbourne, and from a first generation of cineaste, under-financed but abundantly entrepreneurial film school-, or TV- or Film Australia-trained filmmakers. The Smart Street team were the most precocious of this lot. Barely out of their teens, high school buddies Storm and Keenan made the prize-winning short films Stephany (1972) and In his Prime (1971) and in 1974 a milestone, $40,000-budget social realist feature 27A. Latter in the decade, Storm would make the dreamy and influential road movie In Search of Anna (1979). Then, in the 1980s and ‘90s – and although always handicapped in finding funding for his personal projects – key, urgent social justice-themed titles like With Prejudice and Deadly. Meanwhile Keenan became the maker behind some of the most ‘square-peg’ of Australian feature films of the 1980s, like Going Down and Pandemonium.
In the 1970s, Storm and Keenan’s Smart Street was like an Australian version of the US indie production house BSB (makers of Easy Rider and Five Easy Pieces): an attempt to build a creative centre that reflected the new Australian society, yet sensitively explored tensions between this zeitgeist and older national social values. This survey selection honours Storm and Keenan’s early work, but also gives Haydn Keenan a chance to introduce his unusual new documentary TV series project Persons of Interest – where each episode centres on someone who is given their previously secret intelligence file (often including stills and 100s of hours of 16mm film footage) and then shows us through it.
Special thanks to Haydn Keenan (Smart Street Films).
27A and In Search of Anna are from the Kodak/Atlab Collection.
Continues in September.