Vale Craig Lahiff

Craig Lahiff, director/writer and producer and one of the pillars of the South Australian screen industry, died in Adelaide on Sunday after a short illness. He was 66.

His final film, Swerve, a thriller about an honest guy who stumbles upon a suitcase of money and a decapitated body on a desert highway, starring David Lyons, Jason Clarke and Emma Booth, was released in Australian cinemas in 2012 and was sold to the Us and the UK.

Helen Leake produced three films with Lahiff: Heaven.s Burning, Black and White and Swerve. .Renowned for his calmness and quiet persuasion in all aspects of his work Craig brought to all of his films a very clear vision that he imparted to all his collaborators,. she said. .Long-time friend Louis Nowra recalls Craig.s .grace under pressure. as a director, and all his colleagues found his craft skills and technical understanding of all
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Black and White

Opened Friday Jan. 9

LONDON -- In a remote desert town in South Australia in 1958, a 9-year-old girl is found raped and murdered. On the flimsiest evidence, local police almost immediately arrest a young Aboriginal man and obtain a confession. Only the efforts of a stubborn, inexperienced Adelaide lawyer stand between the accused and the hangman.

Craig Lahiff's sturdy courtroom drama "Black and White", based on real events, follows a predictable path and is unlikely to make substantial gains at the boxoffice, but it's a laudable effort and certain to please fans of Robert Carlyle.

The "Full Monty" star plays obstinate lawyer David O'Sullivan, whose dislike of the antiquated British-based Australian judiciary drives him to take seriously a case he's obliged to take without a fee. He quickly learns that the Aboriginal, Max Stuart, played with unsentimental grace by David Ngoombujarra, is illiterate and put his mark on a confession he couldn't read.

When it turns out that Curtis was in police custody for being drunk at the time the murder took place, it appears that a dismissal is inevitable. But the pathologist changes her mind and fixes the death outside the time frame of his alibi.

Only when he's sent for trial does Curtis claim that the police beat him in order to obtain the confession. By now, O'Sullivan is going head-to-head with a pillar of the judicial establishment, Roderic Chamberlain, played with typical elegance and power by Charles Dance.

More evidence emerges that tends to suggest Curtis' innocence when a compassionate priest becomes involved, but Curtis is convicted and sentenced to hang. O'Sullivan's fight to win appeals goes all the way up to a Royal Commission, putting Curtis near the hangman's door seven times, while the local newspaper -- published by one Rupert Murdoch -- gets on the bandwagon to defend him.

Ben Mendelsohn plays the young Murdoch as a callow opportunist, and the film suggests that his enthusiasm for the campaign swiftly ended when he was threatened with prosecution for seditious libel.

The film dips a toe into the role of newspapers influencing trials but drops it as a topic to focus on O'Sullivan's class struggle with Chamberlain. Screenwriter Louis Nowra and director Lahiff develop that theme effectively and take the trouble to invest Chamberlain with considerable human dimension.

There is a clever scene in which the aristocratic hopeful for the chief justice's chair snarls out his view of the case to his wife and their genteel friends, sparing them no brutal detail of the rape and murder as he believes they happened.

O'Sullivan runs into almost uniformly supercilious representatives of the British legal establishment, however, all with condescending stares and snooty voices. But the lawyer's dependence on his reluctant but loyal partner, played sympathetically by Kerry Fox, is well drawn, and at no point does Carlyle allow himself to showboat. His is a fully professional performance that shows no strain from the fact that he carries the film on his shoulders.

Lahiff shows little visual flair, and the film will fit nicely on the small screen. It's a grim tale not told in a grim way

an honorable argument not angry enough. A bit more of Chamberlain's superb self-belief might have given the piece a lot more power.


Tartan Films


Director: Craig Lahiff

Screenwriter: Louis Nowra

Producers: Helen Leake, Nik Powell

Director of photography: Geoffrey Simpson

Production designer: Murray Picknett

Costume designer: Annie Marshallp

Editor: Lee Smith


David O'Sullivan: Robert Carlyle

Roderic Chamberlain: Charles Dance

Helen Devaney: Kerry Fox

Father Tom Dixon: Colin Friels

Rupert Murdoch: Ben Mendelsohn

Max Stuart: David Ngoombujarra

Running time -- 100 minutes

No MPAA rating " />Shane McCutcheon: Katherine Moennig

Dana Fairbanks: Erin Daniels

Alice Pieszecki: Leisha Hailey

Kit Porter: Pam Grierppencott, David Vanacore, Mark T. Williams

Main title theme: The O-Jays

Casting: Rob LaPlante

See also

Credited With | External Sites