unique, uplifting and grounding views of real life Australia
William Yang is one of Australia's most celebrated photographers, especially in portraiture. He's a Brisbane local boy (born in Nth Queensland, also raised and studied in Brisbane) - he's also become a friend since I first saw "Sadness" performed live as a "monologue with slides".
In Performance William stands to the side of the stage facing the audience with slide-projector remote in hand, and with a mirror clipped to his lectern, so he can be sure what slides are displaying. The order and pace of the slides is just as practised and purposeful as the dialogue.
We feel strong empathy with both William and his photographed subjects, because we know that they are people he personally interacted with, and because we're given personal and intimate detail of his relationship with them.
Just as his subjects trusted him implicitly, we also know that William is holding nothing back. He knows exactly what emotional buttons to push, as well as how to set up a joke perfectly - so even though some aspects of "Sadness" will necessarily crunch the heart of the audience, William also gives us good reason to celebrate life in all its cultural and biological diversity - and inevitability.
Tony Ayres has done a truly remarkable job in adapting "Sadness" to film. All of the original performance elements are there, plus relevant moving film, fine music and warming cinematic flourishes like the blue-screened scenes of travelling north in "Shirl" (William's car). We also glimpse more of William himself.
"Sadness" encourages us to see beauty and a story in every aspect of a face and to be brave enough to live, love and die with dignity.
Sadness deservedly won the audience award as Most Popular Film at the 1999 Brisbane International Film Festival.
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