Leave Hollywood at home


Written and directed by Tracey Moffat
At Melbourne's Cinema Nova and Academy and Walker Cinemas in Sydney from October 28
Reviewed by Peter Boyle

The three films that make up BeDevil were shot together in six weeks — on a low budget. It was edited, then rushed off to the Cannes Film Festival, where it got a good reception.

"It wasn't in the competition section. It was shown in the 'Uncertain Regard' category for films that are edgier and of non-conventional style", Tracey Moffat told Green Left Weekly. "That was all right because BeDevil is a very different film."

BeDevil is Moffat's first feature length film and featured as the final night treat at the 1993 Melbourne Film Festival. It also was part of this year's Sydney Film Festival. Her two previous short films, Nice Coloured Girls and Night Cries: A Rural Tragedy won her considerable acclaim — the latter was submitted for competition in the 1990 Cannes Film Festival.

Apart from this she has made documentaries for SBS, Film Australia and various Aboriginal organisations. A recent enjoyable job was making a film clip for INXS in which, she reveals with some relish, a group of black women on bikes kidnap the band!

BeDevil comprises three ghost stories (Mr Chuck, Choo Choo Choo Choo and Lovin' the Spin I'm In), told to Moffat by her mother. Like Night Cries, they are set against stylised Australian landscapes, giving them the feel of stage productions. She says she found reinterpreting the Australian landscape and playing with cinematic form exciting.

Without really having the time or the budget needed, Moffat says she tried to work in a "loose and open-ended way" and was "lucky to get away with it".

The result is a series of ghostly yarns that do more than give you the buzz from feeling spooky. Each yarn leaves the audience with countless questions: why did this or that happen and, of course, what did it mean?

Moffat agrees BeDevil is not an easy film for Hollywood-conditioned audiences. "But some people really can get into it. They find their own meanings because I don't conclude these stories in a neat, conventional way."

Till now, Moffat says, she has really been into making films that leave some ambiguity and challenge the audience to bring in their own interpretations. She concedes that she does make some strong points about change, about stereotypes and about multiculturalism.

In one scene in Choo Choo Choo Choo, we see traditional bush tucker being presented in the flashy style usually associated with sophisticated gourmet French cooking.

There is a rich ethnic mix in the characters in BeDevil — Aborigines, Torres Strait Islanders, Greeks, Chinese, Anglos, Japanese, Americans. Moffat says this is a part of Australian multicultural reality that is screened out of most Australian films.

Change certainly makes itself felt in BeDevil. In one film we see a swamp give way to a cinema and then to classic modern Queensland-style coastal development. In another, traditional hunting grounds are being fenced off, and in the final vignette, an old warehouse (the scene of much drama) is about to give way to a marina development.

Moffat's next film is going to be a comedy and in a more popular style. It is going to have Afro-American actors in it and be set in Australia. More, she will not reveal.

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