From Sand to Celluloid - No Way to Forget: Spirit work
Night-time. A man behind the wheel of a car. A desolate road. In voice-over, Shane Francis (David Ngoombujarra) talks about the spirits that are present in the work he does as a field officer for the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. Flashback: Francis walks into the office. A solicitor (Molly Brumm) seated at her desk, watches Francis cross the floor with a towel in one hand and a towel rack in the other. Francis attempts to tie the bulky towel into a knot by weaving it through the towel rack. He glances to his side. Beside him is a black-and-white photo that depicts a young man (Caine Muir) hanging by a towel tied in a knot. Francis is disturbed by not being able to imitate the technique by which the young man alleged hanged himself.
Summary by Romaine Moreton
The Royal Commission into Deaths in Custody became necessary because of the high incidence of Indigenous peoples dying in custody in suspicious circumstances, as depicted here.
No Way to Forget Synopsis
A short film that uses flashback to tell the story of Shane Francis’ (David Ngoombujarra) close encounters with the spirit and secular worlds during his work as a field officer for the Royal Commission into Deaths in Custody, haunted by the spirits of the past and tortured.
No Way to Forget Curator's Notes
At the age of 25, Richard J Frankland was employed as a senior field officer for the Royal Commission into Deaths in Custody established in 1987, and it is this experience that Frankland calls upon to compose the narrative of this story. It is a glimpse into Frankland’s experience while working for the Commission – the incredible intrusion of death into the main character’s life, the constant isolation that results from location – as well as the things he has learned.
No Way to Forget is a story told while lead character Shane Francis (David Ngoombujarra) is travelling from one town to the next, the story unfolding in flashback. The characters’ whose deaths he has had to investigate, he tells us, he gets to know well – where they were born and what they were like – and death is the intruder in his once light life. The journey of Shane Francis – a solitary car along a desolate road – externalises the isolation Francis feels as a result of having to constantly engage with death. One scene where a boy (Geoff Tye) tells him that he looked for a future and couldn’t find one powerfully sums up the emotion of the story. In No Way to Forget, like Francis, we are introduced to characters whose lives are tumultuous and chaotic and, like Francis, we should be haunted by the realities of some folk within this country, and the ever-present spirits who watch over the work we are or are not doing.
No Way To Forget won Best Short Film at the Australian Film Institute Awards in 1996 and was selected for Un Certain Regard at the 1996 Cannes International Film Festival. Frankland’s other films include Harry’s War (1999), Who Killed Malcolm Smith (1992), After Mabo (1997) and theatre production Conversations with the Dead (2002).
Notes by Romaine Moreton