54th Chicago Int’l Film Fest #14: “[Censored]” (Australia)

“[Censored]” (Australia)
Directed by Sari Braithwaite

2804So, you read a blurb about a documentary that goes something like this: “When Sari Braithwaite gained access to never-before-seen movie clips deemed immoral and censored by the Australian government from 1951 to 1978, she planned to liberate these long-suppressed images from the archives.”, you would be forgiven for thinking to yourself, “this will be just like the last five minutes of “Cinema Paradiso”…I LOVE this idea!”

And then you screen the film and realize that while that blurb is technically accurate, all of your quaint expectations will soon be crushed upon the rocks of patriarchal norms of privilege and violence once these clips are assembled out of context…one after the other.

Which isn’t to say there doesn’t exist quite a bit of that humorous disbelief at what was considered over-the-top during these years, especially as late as the early seventies. But the film, told as a running monologue between the director Sari Braithwaite (a film archivist) and the audience, has much bigger aspirations. Listening to her very subdued, almost child-like voice describe how living with these clips and watching them over and over again played and shifted her feelings about the collection, cinema and the public is  fascinating, infuriating and, in the end, unbelievably instructive (assuming one is open to the lesson).

I don’t quite know what else to add without giving away more than would be fair. Just know that the film is wildly successful and very intense. So much so that it led to a post-film discussion, WITHOUT THE DIRECTOR’S PRESENCE, that was emotional, challenging and valuable. Never seen THAT before at the Fest!

Written on 10/31/2018

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