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Beneath Clouds 2002
Description: The storyline of Lena, the light-skinned daughter of an Aboriginal mother and Irish father and Vaughn, a Murri man doing time in a minimum safety prison in North West NSW. Dramatic happenings throw them together on a adventure with no cash and no transport. To Lena, Vaughn represents the life she is running away from. To Vaughn, Lena embodies the society that has rejected him. And for a very short amount of time, they experience a rare real happiness together.
Released: 23 May 2002 Director: Ivan Sen Writers: Ivan Sen Actors: Dannielle Hall, Damian Pitt, Jenna Lee Connors, Terry Dahlstron Genres: Drama, Romance
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Beneath Clouds Reviews:

Ivan Sen was a guest of the Dendy art-house cinema group at the advance screening I attended. He spoke about the script writing process, casting and funding hurdles at length.The previous 6 years of Ivan's career have been devoted to producing short films; all of which have thematically built towards the storyline in 'Beneath Clouds'.Taking its game from the Pearl Jam song 'Black', the movie shows two young folks (Lena and Vaughn) who escape from restrictive cases to rendevous with a remote parent in a find for love and validation ... only it is not clear if that love will be returned.Sen wrote the script from his own experiences growing up in Alice Springs with an Aboriginal mother and an absent European father (like Lena) and his full-blooded cousins constantly in and out of juvenile courts and detention centres (like Vaughn and Lena's brother). He told that at first writing a feature-length script was hard given his past movie efforts ran to a max of 30 minutes. However, the interim draft boasted 140 pages. During and between script-writing he listened to lots of melody (not only Pearl Jam!) and wrote some musical phrases and themes that become the movie sound-track in the hands of Alistair Spence. The final script was 90 pages, and, by neat coincidence, the running time of the movie is exactly 90 minutes!Vaughn was cast by approaching a young boy on the roads of Moree. Damian Pitt was initially incredulous at being asked to enjoy a lead role in a detail film, but was fast to come around. The approach of casting Lena, explained Sen, was more conventional. Although he tried to recruit a female lead in the same method as Damian was found, the process of driving by, pulling up slowly, rolling down the window and asking 'do you wish to be in a movie?' was fraught with too many sleazy connotations to be taken seriously by the young girls he approached! Through a friend, Sen viewed an audition tape featuring Danielle Hall, and though initially ambivalent, the director was awestruck after meeting her in her hometown of Wee Waa and instantly sensed her ability to identify with the hero and project the lines of the script as if they were her own. Obviously, judges at the Berlin festival were equally moved. The remainder of the cast were largely amateur, recruited around Moree.Funding for the movie was conditional on it being a feature, to enable it to travel the worldwide festival circuit as a stand-alone picture. Chief funding bodies were the NSW Movie Commission and the Pacific Movie & TV Commission - the former association ensured all zone filming was in NSW. Streets and scenery around Moree, Gunnedah, Blacktown and Sydney present a nice dynamic range of terrain and geography. From the time of the green-light of funding to shooting took only 4 months; the shoot went for 6 weeks; and post-production/editing took 6 months; all at a cost of 2-and-a-half million Australian dollars (roughly one-and-a-quarter mill. US dollars). Not cheap by Oz standards but not expensive either in an international sense.My impression of the movie is of a modern classic, up there with Gallipolli, Picnic at Hanging Rock and The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith. It was well-deserving of the attention of the Berlin jury, and Ivan the auteur and musician has a nice future ahead of him. His next project will be a black comedy set in Mexico about folks who visit a tiny city hoping to be abducted by aliens.Mr Sen, greatest of luck, and please don't receive all indulgent like Russell Crowe or Billy Bob Thornton by fronting a lame rock band! Hold it real.


I have tiny to add to the perfect reviews above. Tarkovsky? Tykwer? No wonder I loved it. I shall go away and have a nice think about those connections. My contribution is a bit of notification about Australian aboriginals that may support non-Australians appreciate this exquisite movie.1. It is normal for Australian aboriginals to take a while to speak to every another (or anyone) if they are strangers. When thinking about this I compared the movie to Eric Rohmer and to Iranian movies about young people. Iranians and Rohmer characters chatter endlessly about trivia but the strong result of the film creeps up on you in the same way.2. It is simple to miss the moment in which Vaughan discovers that Lena is Aboriginal. This is an necessary turning mission in the film. To avoid spoiling I'll only give you a tip. An older person is involved and there is no discussion. If you watch for it you will see it.


This is a deceptively easy storyline of two young people, both on the run, meeting up on a rural Fresh South Wales road. Both are aboriginal and both are, for family reasons, headed for Sydney. Nothing particularly dramatic happens but there is enough incident to hold the viewer watching, and perhaps see life as it is for alienated young blacks in contemporary Australia. The director, Ivan Sen, has a powerful visual sense, and he captures the land with breathtaking vistas (he also wrote much of the music). It is not the outback, it is the central west Fresh South Wales of large commercial farming – cotton, sunflowers and corn, yet even the large farms are dwarfed by their surroundings. The young couple proceeds through this superb landscape beneath the clouds of the game preoccupied by their own problems, though the man (Damien Pitt) is angrily aware that this is the land taken from his forbears. She (Danielle Hall) on the another hand rejects her Aboriginal background and focuses on her Irish father and the green misty land he came from.The dialogue is cute sparse and the delivery often a tiny wooden but the two leads express the emotions needed more than adequately. Their relationship should not be further from a conventional teen romance, rather they are two emotionally stunted folks who come to realise they can still care for someone else.As for the rest, there are the inevitable black brothers in clapped out HQ Holdens, a just cruisin' but still hassled by the police, and plenty of hostile or merely patronising whites. One old white boy (Arthur Dignam) does give them a lift but most whites give our couple a wide berth. I thought the storyline needed a tiny more development; the movie describes a case rather than says a story, but it does so with nice simplicity and honesty. It's a cliché I know, but I await Ivan Sen's next work with nice interest – he's a considerable talent.



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