Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Focus on Kelly Reichardt

Meek's Cutoff
Meek's Cutoff
This June the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) presents Focus on Kelly Reichardt, a tribute to one of the most distinctive voices in cinema today. From her rarely seen debut, River of Grass, to her masterful genre defying western, Meek's Cutoff, Reichardt's films evoke the vitality of European and New American Cinema of the 60s and 70s, and spotlight an America rarely seen on celluloid.

The program opens with an exclusive season of Meek's Cutoff (2010), a work praised for its audacious interpretation of the western. The film tells the story of three pioneering families journeying across the harsh terrain of the Oregon Trail. Being led off course by their guide Meek, tensions begin to surface amongst the settlers as they confront the possibility of perishing in the desert.

Based on historical events when 1000 migrants travelled from Oregon to the West Coast in 1845, the screenplay for Meek's Cutoff was written by Reichardt's long-time collaborator Jon Raymond (who participates in an exclusive Q&A for ACMI on 13 June). On board as the film's executive producer was Reichardt's close friend and filmmaker Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven, I'm Not There).

Reuniting the director with Michelle Williams - who gives a distinguished performance as an outspoken settler refusing to bow down to Meek - the film also includes performances by some of contemporary cinema's finest actors via Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Shirley Henderson and Bruce Greenwood.

Taking one of cinema's most masculine genres and infusing it with a strong female perspective, Reichardt relies heavily on close ups showing her female characters engaged in domestic life. As she told Indiewire: "When we were shooting we tried to keep as far away from a man-on-a-horse western as we could. It's a desert poem, more Nanook of the North than a western."

Supporting the exclusive season of Meek's Cutoff, ACMI also presents screenings of Reichardt's earlier films including the rarely screened River of Grass and Ode, and encore performances of Old Joy and Wendy and Lucy.

ACMI Film Programmer Kristy Matheson says, "Kelly Reichardt is an exciting director who has made a name for herself here in Australia with the masterful Wendy and Lucy and Old Joy. Her latest film, Meek's Cutoff represents a definite shift in the scale of her filmmaking, and as such, provides a perfect opportunity for audiences to explore all her works in a consolidated season".

River of Grass (1993) - Reichardt's directorial debut was nominated for the Sundance Grand Jury Prize and drew parallels with Bonny and Clyde and Two Lane Blacktop from the American press upon its release.

Ode (1999) - A free-form Super 8 featurette taking inspiration from the narrative of the classic Bobby Gentry song Ode To Billy Joe. Regarded by Reichardt as one of her most positive directorial experiences, Ode was made with a skeleton crew of just two people - Reichardt and a sound person - and features a soundtrack by Paul Oldham (Palace Brothers/Bonnie Prince Billy and brother of Will Oldham).

Old Joy (2006) - Starring Will Oldham (AKA Bonnie Prince Billy), Old Joy examines the relationship between expectant father Mark (Daniel London) and his old friend Kurt (Oldham) as they try to rekindle their friendship on a road trip through the Oregon wilderness. The film also features a soundtrack by indie rock band Yo La Tengo.

Wendy and Lucy (2008) - Co-written by Reichardt and Jon Raymond (Meek's Cutoff, Old Joy) the film stars Michelle Williams in the role of Wendy, a young woman living on the fringes of urban America. Described by the New York Times as "political to the bone but without any of the usual grandstanding," the film explores important social issues - delivered in Reichardt's understated, minimalist style - and makes for absorbing viewing in a post Global Financial Crisis world.

While Reichardt has been making films for the best part of two decades, she occupies a unique place in American cinema sharply contrasted against her male contemporaries. She has spoken openly of the difficulties faced when trying to secure finance for her films; a problem which she largely attributes to her gender.

Reichardt told The Guardian (UK) in April: ".you can watch awards shows or see what's being made and you still don't see women who have the career of Todd [Haynes] or Gus [Van Sant] or Wes Anderson, or any of those men who make personal films. I teach for a living, and I make movies when I can."

Praise for Meek's Cutoff:

"A fascinating and tremendously well-made film" - The Guardian (UK)

".one of 2011's singular cinematic experiences: subtle, simple and devastating." - Time Out London

"A revelation of a film.  Bracingly original." -  The New York Times

"A new American classic." - TIME

Kelly Reichardt was born in Miami, Florida in 1964. Before her directing career began, she worked in the art department of various films including Todd Haynes' Poison. She also teaches film at New York's Bard College.

Jon Raymond released the novel The Half Life in 2004 and a collection of short stories, Livability, in 2008. The screenplays for Old Joy and Wendy and Lucy were based on two stories from this collection. He is the screen-writer for Meek's Cutoff and Todd Haynes' latest project Mildred Pierce.

Join screen-writer Jon Raymond for an exclusive Q&A via phone from Portland on Monday 13 June following the 1.00pm screening of Meek's Cutoff.

Focus on Kelly Reichardt screens at ACMI in Melbourne from 2 to 19 June, 2011. For program information and session times, please visit http://www.acmi.net.au/.

Further information

Frances Mariani
Communications Coordinator
[direct phone] 61 3 8663 2475 [fax] 61 3 8663 2498 [mobile] 0434 603 655
[email] frances.mariani@acmi.net.au  
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