Night Cries: A Rural Tragedy: A baby cries
A mother sits holding her daughter, cradling her on her lap. A soft light falls over them. Beyond the light is darkness. Then the woman, now older, lies on her back, her daughter in a foetal position curled by her side. There is only the sound of an iron lung, and the crying of a baby.
This scene, perhaps more than any other, revisits Chauvel’s Jedda. The white mother and Aboriginal baby side by side – both though are now older. The daughter, reaching up to cover the old woman’s face, tells us that the old woman is dead. And perhaps with the passing of the old woman, a part of the daughter dies also. Again reminiscent of Jedda, when Jedda exclaims to Marbuck, if you die, I shall die too. This scene speaks of a dependency – though one forged perhaps unintentionally and regretfully – it is a relationship none the less.
Summary by Romaine Moreton.
Night Cries: A Rural Tragedy synopsis
A short experimental film shot totally in a studio, it is about the relationship between an Aboriginal daughter and her white mother. The daughter, now the sole carer of her dying mother, dreams of far away places.
Night Cries: A Rural Tragedy curator's notes
A short film written and directed by Tracey Moffatt, Night Cries is promoted as a possible sequel to Chauvel’s feature film Jedda. What would have happened had Jedda survived, and became the primary carer of her white mother? Moffatt, one of Australia’s most famous visual artists whose work is internationally acclaimed, continues her use of constructed environments, with no outdoor scenes filmed in this work. Shot entirely indoors, the design work of Steven Curtis in Night Cries can also be seen in Moffatt’s feature film BeDevil. The beautiful use of rich colours, reflections and sounds open up the indoor environment of the set, and suggests the grand expanse of physical landscapes.
Moffatt’s use of famous Aboriginal singer Jimmy Little, who sings 'Royal Telephone’ in Night Cries, evokes the presence of Christianity, and its role in the assimilation of Aboriginal peoples. The haunting textures of the painted landscape can then perhaps be reflective of a gradual change in how Aboriginal people relate to the land as a consequence of assimilation. The haunted look in the eyes of the Aboriginal daughter (Marcia Langton), is loaded with a sense of what could have been. The final scene of Night Cries is reminiscent of a scene from Jedda, when the newborn infant is laid on the table next to the white mistress of the house, and both begin to cry. This scene in Night Cries revisits the pain and anguish of Jedda, as the now grown Aboriginal daughter lies in a foetal position next to her white mother, and once again cries. Assimilation, then, can be understood as a pain experienced by both the Aboriginal daughter, as well as the white mother.
Tracey Moffatt is an artist who continues to challenge the social construction of Aboriginality and how it is nationally and internationally viewed.
Notes by Romaine Moreton.