Thursday, 21 July 2011

The Arbor and Rita, Sue and Bob too

The Arbor
The Arbor
As part of its First Look program, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) presents two films paying tribute to the work of late English playwright, Andrea Dunbar, with Clio Barnard's award winning debut feature, The Arbor (1-4 September), and Alan Clarke's Rita, Sue and Bob too (8-11 September).


Part of the 2011 Melbourne Writers Festival program, The Arbor is an enthralling portrait of Dunbar, who grew up in the rough environs of the Buttershaw housing estate in Bradford, Yorkshire. Struggling with poverty and violence, she went on to become one of the UK's most promising playwrights before her tragic death at 29 years old.

Employing Verbatim Theatre techniques throughout the film - where original interviews from Dunbar's family and friends are lip-synched by the actors - The Arbor  examines Dunbar's life through her writing and the recollections of those who knew her, exploring the tense relationship with her daughter Lorraine, who just like her mother, has experienced a life marred by tragedy.

Winning Barnard the Best New Documentary Filmmaker Award at the Tribeca Film Festival, The Arbor offers a fresh take on England's social realist tradition, and demonstrates a unique visual style.

 "Part of what I wanted to do was question why a particular group of people and a particular place - in this case working-class people on council estates - have a particular visual style that is always used to represent them," Barnard told the New York Times. "There's an idea that [one] style is somehow more authentic than another kind of style."

The film takes its name from Dunbar's first play, The Arbor, which debuted at the Royal Court Theatre in London when she was 18 years old, and then went on to win the Young Writers' Festival competition.

Taking a more light-hearted approach to storytelling is the 1986 feature film, Rita, Sue and Bob too.  Based on Dunbar's play of the same name, she was also the film's script-writer.

Set on the Bradford housing estate where Dunbar lived her whole life, Rita, Sue and Bob too traces the (mis)adventures of teenage best friends Rita and Sue, who engage in an affair with a middle class real estate agent named Bob.

Taking a raucous but sincere approach to its subject matter, Rita Sue and Bob too was regarded by Clarke as "a comedy of manners".   

ACMI Film Programmer Kristy Matheson says, "ACMI is thrilled to present The Arbor with the 2011 Melbourne Writers Festival. The innovative filmmaking style and riveting subject matter will satisfy both cinema and literary audiences alike. We're also pleased to team this premiere screening with Rita, Sue and Bob too by legendary UK director, Alan Clarke, and scripted by Andrea Dunbar."

Praise for The Arbor:

"Barnard has created a modernist, compassionate biopic: a tribute to [Dunbar's] memory and her embattled community" - The Guardian (UK)

"(An) extraordinary film. It's simultaneously hyperstylised (her immaculate compositions recall Errol Morris) and uncomfortably realistic" - Sight & Sound

Praise for Rita, Sue and Bob too:

"A lusty triangle involving teenage girls and the married man for whom they babysit is the subject of this hilarious film.acted to sly perfection" - Vogue

"Rita, Sue and Bob too is easily the year's most off-the-wall movie." - The Herald (USA)

As part of the 2011 Melbourne Writers Festival, the First Look season of The Arbor screens at ACMI in Melbourne from Thursday 1 until Sunday 4 September. The full program for the 2011 Melbourne Writers Festival will be available on Friday 29 July. The First Look season of Rita, Sue and Bob too also screens at ACMI from Thursday 8 to Sunday 11 September. For program information and session times visit

The Arbor, Clio Barnard, 94 mins, UK, 2010, Digital Betacam. Source: Wavelength Pictures. Courtesy: Wavelength Pictures.

Rita, Sue and Bob too, Alan Clarke, 88 mins, UK, 1986, 35mm. Source: NewVision Films. Courtesy: Park Circus.


Further information

Frances Mariani
Communications Coordinator
[direct phone] 61 3 8663 2475 [fax] 61 3 8663 2498 [mobile] 0434 603 655
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