50 Years of the Cantrills at ACMI

Arthur Cantrill and Richard Sowada at the projectors

Arthur Cantrill (left) and Richard Sowada prepare duelling projectors in the Cantrill’s sold out dual-screen presentation in the ACMI Studio on Sunday Oct 17


This year marks the 50th anniversary of the filmmaking life of Australia’s great experimental film pioneers Arthur and Corinne Cantrill. Internationally recognised for their work, ACMI is participating in this anniversary by showcasing a special program curated by The Age film critic Jake Wilson.

Entitled Grain of the Voice, the program can’t hope to touch the sides of the great volume of work the Cantrills have produced, but it will shine a light on some elements that focus on the texture of sound and voice from their travels internationally and around remote Australia.

Two weeks in, it’s already proved to be a fantastic showcase. One of the great things so far has been the participation of Arthur and Corinne, who punctuate the screenings with a fascinating observational (and often very funny) commentary. Their personal experiences provide great insight into their craft, drawing  the audience in to the physical and intellectual process behind it.

What I’ve particularly enjoyed in the season so far is the hands-on nature of what they do and their presentation. On arrival each Sunday, Arthur and Corrine are armed with boxes of films, take-up spools, splicing blocks, torches and all manner of material to deliver their special brand of expanded cinema. They know what they want and they know how to deliver it. It is just as much part of the science as constructing the work itself.

It is a fantastically organic experience in any environment (cinema or otherwise) and there’s a high level of unpredictability in each show.

The packed Terra Australis presentation on Sunday17 October in ACMI’s Studio 1 was a great example. We had three 16mm projectors occupying the back row of the space to present both single and dual screen works. Operating live in the space like this is quite invigorating for both the audience and me (I was projecting along with Arthur), with the clunk of the two projectors activating (I never get sick of that sound), then a synchronised dual screen….it’s lots of fun and wholly unpredictable.

This unpredictability is integral to the show and the way the films are “read”. It’s never the same twice. That kind of presentation adds a whole other dimension to the works while also exposing the process and perhaps in a way giving audiences some form of ownership – certainly a direct connection – to the works. There’s a sense of “as it happens – in the moment”.

That feeling is genuinely reflected in the informal post-film discussions which are mighty hearty and it’s all we can do to wrestle Arthur and Corinne from the audience’s grasp after an hour.

Congratulations to Arthur and Corinne.

(Forthcoming programs include Voices of Artists this Sunday Oct 24 at 3:15pm and Harry Hooton: Outsider Poet on Oct 31 at 3:15pm.)

– Richard Sowada, ACMI’s Head of Film Programs

Read Curator Jake Wilson’s essay on the Cantrills here.

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