Monday, 2 May 2011

Civic Life

Joe Lawlor on set in Singapore
Civic Life, a unique series of films exploring communities and public space, made by Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor (UK), will screen at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) on Friday 3 June followed by a live Q&A with Lawlor. On this Melbourne visit local artists and filmmakers will also have the opportunity to attend a workshop with the acclaimed UK director.

Over the last seven years, the Lawlor-Molloy artistic partnership known as Desperate Optimists, has co-directed the Civic Life series of beautiful, critically acclaimed 35mm widescreen films which explore the relationship between community, belonging and sense of place. The narratives of the films are developed through a process of consultation with communities about the places that matter to them. All of the Civic Life films are shot on 35mm cinemascope making extensive use of the long take and involving largely amateur casts made up of volunteers from the local communities.

Each film has its own distinct qualities, but their real emotional power is perhaps only fully realised when seen as a whole. For this screening, the films have been edited together without titles or credits and the resulting uncertainty as to when one films ends and another begins, drawing out and intensifying the overlapping themes of identity and place, belonging, hope, loss and new beginnings.

The result is a meditative and visually arresting body of work. The films are richly cinematic and experimental, yet highly accessible.

ACMI will screen a compendium of the short films created across the UK, Ireland and most recently, Singapore.  The screening will include the award winning films, Who Killed Brown Owl and Joy, as well as a preview of Tiong Bahru, shot in Singapore last year with cast of 150 volunteers, Tiong Bahru residents. The screening will be accompanied by a question and answer session with Lawlor.

Lawlor says the challenges of his chosen filmmaking process delivers engaging and truthful results. "We feel this tension between the slickness of 35mm production values and the rawness in the performances allows for something admittedly flawed but ultimately human and honest to come through."

ACMI Screen Events Manager Helen Simondson believes the program will touch ACMI audiences. "Similar in philosophy to ACMI's own Digital Storytelling and ACMI in the Regions projects, Joe and Christine's exploration of identity, place and belonging unlocks beautiful stories of humanity everyone will enjoy." 

In addition to the screening session, Joe Lawlor will host the Our Civic Lives workshop at ACMI on Saturday 4 June. In a four hour intensive masterclass suited to artists and filmmakers, Joe will share his experience of and processes for working with communities and the challenges this type of filmmaking presents. Lawlor will speak about sourcing funding from non-screen agencies, working with amateur performers, transitioning from shorts to features, festival circuit opportunities and international co-productions. Lawlor will also workshop ideas for micro-short films inspired by ideas of place, community and identity, and participants will have the opportunity to have their own film featured on the website of the latest Civic Life film, Tiong Bahru.

While in Melbourne, Lawlor will be researching for future Civic Life projects with the intention of a Melbourne-based film in 2012.

After seven years working in theatre as proponents of community storytelling, Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor decided to move their artistic practice to the moving image. Since 2003 they have directed ten short films as part of their Civic Life project, which have toured to critical acclaim. Their debut feature film, Helen (2008), premiered at the Edinburgh International Film Festival before screening at over 50 film festivals worldwide, garnering several international film awards along the way.

The Civic Life screening with Q&A and the artist/filmmaker workshop will be held at ACMI on 3 and 4 June respectively. Places in the workshop are limited to 15 practitioners. Book early to avoid disappointment.

Desperate Optimists are in Australia as part of a Melbourne and Sydney tour supported by the British Council. For more information on Desperate Optimists and the Civic Life tour visit

"An impressive cinematic achievement" - The Guardian

"Works of heretical brilliance" - Sight&Sound

"Audacious and distinctive" - Empire

ACMI event details summary:

Civic Life: Screening and Q&A Unclassified 15+
Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor, 73 mins, UK, 2003-2010, 35mm
Fri 3 Jun, 6.30pm
ACMI Cinemas 
Full $14 Concession $11 ACMI Members $10

Our Civic Lives (Artist/Filmmaker Workshop) Unclassified 15+
Sat 4 Jun, 12pm - 4pm
ACMI Studio 1 
Full $20 Concession $15 ACMI Members $12
Limit of 15 participants


Further information

Claire Butler
Communications Coordinator
[direct phone] 61 3 8663 2415 [fax] 61 3 8663 2498 [mobile] 0434 603 654
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