Magazine article Metro Magazine

Defining Moments

Magazine article Metro Magazine

Defining Moments

Article excerpt

COMPLETED ONLY WEEKS prior to its premier at Cannes, where--as one of ten finalists--it won the Palme d'Or for Short Film, Cracker Bag (Glendyn Ivin, 2003) returned to its Australian premier to win Best Short Film at the National Short Film Competition at the 20th St Kilda Film Festival. This success was consolidated at this year's Melbourne International Film Festival, where it screened on closing night.

Independently financed by Ivin and producer, Jane Liscombe, the international and local recognition of Cracker Bag announces the emerging director's unique cinematic vision. Ivin is a graduate in documentary at the School of Film and Television, Victorian College of the Arts, and Cracker Bag is his first foray into fiction film-making Ivin comments, 'I used to say I was a documentary film-maker.

But now I think I'm a documentary film-maker that makes drama'. Like the stylistic elements that define Cracker Bag, Ivin holds the terms 'documentary' and 'drama' in almost equal balance. The film's persistent observational focus, a noticeable relic of Ivin's documentary beginnings, embraces an elemental storytelling that represents less an evolution than an equilibrium of film forms. Noting as his key inspirations Frederick Wiseman--'a huge inspiration'--Ken Loach, and new Scottish film-maker Lynne Ramsey (Morvern Callar, 2002), Ivin hastens to add that he is attracted to fiction that is 'strongly based in reality'.

Cracker Bag is a fictionalized account of Ivin's childhood experience told through the eyes of Eddie (Edith Cattell), a 'tomboy' who stores an arsenal of fireworks under her bed in preparation for cracker night. Eddie trades tin cans for cash, resourcefully weighting the cans with stones, to raise money to add to her veritable catalogue of crackers. On a football oval, Eddie lights the fuse of her first cracker. She accidentally knocks it and the cracker inadvertently lodges in her cracker bag. A fusillade of fireworks illuminates the night sky as the film gestures toward a representation of the first experience of disenchantment.

An elegy for childhood, Cracker Bag's resonance across film audiences also hinges on its geographical certainty: Eddie's suburban environs, a direct invocation of Ivin's childhood, immerse the viewer into the space of a vernacular landscape, Ivin is impassioned and forthcoming with his musings on cinema, and on the place of the familiar in Eddie's universe of fire-crackers and toy horses.

SH: Could you describe the reception of Cracker Bag at Cannes?

GI: I was never sure how European audiences would get it, particularly because a lot of the details are very Australian. But, rather than do something cliched, I tried to show hints of things that you remember from childhood so that you would fill in the gaps. When I spoke to the judges in Cannes they said that it was really nice to see a film where the geography featured heavily in the storytelling. But at the same time, it did have this universal appeal that they were touched by.

You've said that the idea for the film comes from personal experience, an event that occurred on Cracker Night. Why did you decide to narrate this event?

It was through frustration really. I'd love to make a feature length documentary, but I haven't found the story or the subject to make it. I'd love to follow someone around for five years and do nothing but film this one person and create a story out of it. But I really enjoy the process of film-making. So rather than waiting for something to come along, fiction seemed to be a way of creating something that I could do. I still approach everything as a documentary film-maker. I think that this comes through in Cracker Bag.

It was only through telling the story to a friend that I realized that it was a very defining moment in my life, but that it was also metaphoric. People had experienced that exact same episode. There's something in there that can speak to a wider audience, which appealed to me because I think that's what happens in good documentary. …

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