Factual fiction

Tiong Bahru (2010)

Tiong Bahru (2010)

How does your community relate to where you live and work? Does it take pride in its neighbourhood, or are your surroundings abused? Do you feel safe? Threatened? Calm? Are your shopkeepers friendly, or closed, or quirky? These and many other questions are asked by Christine Molloy and Joe Lawler (aka Desperate Optimists) in their ongoing film project, Civic Life, as they step into the public spaces of once little-known communities.

Civic Life is a series of films that concentrates on communicating the unique identities of communities. The Civic Life films are not documentaries. They are fictional films that represent the identity of a community and its public spaces; kind of like elaborate metaphors. For each film, Molloy and Lawler get to know an area and its locals, finding out how people feel about where they live. They then create a storyline which is filmed in a local public space using 35mm film with a cast entirely made out of local residents. The results are lyrical, unashamedly glamorous films that allow the communities to see their public spaces in new ways.

Take a look at a Helen (2004) from the Civic Life series below.

Lawler and Molloy see cultural work as essential to a healthy society. ‘If you don’t have cultural work going on,’ says Molloy, ‘then it makes for a very fractured and discordant existence – your locality just becomes a place you eat and sleep or work in rather than a place to LIVE in as such.’ With the support of a number of cultural organisations, Lawler and Molloy have been able to bring reflection, insight and a sense of belonging to the places they work in as well as creating accomplished works of art (the films in the series have won a number of awards in their time).

According to Desperate Optimists, the individual Civic Life films are at their most powerful when viewed together. It is with this in mind that they have created a unified experience in their Civic Life tour by editing a selection of Civic Life films together without titles or credits. Doing this, they feel, helps to highlight the films’ overarching themes of belonging, hope, identity and new beginnings. This special Civic Life medley screens at ACMI on Friday 3 June  followed by a Q&A session. See the ACMI website for details.

Can’t get enough? Joe Lawler will be holding a very special masterclass at ACMI on Saturday 4 June. Students will learn about community  filmmaking and participate in a micro-film workshop. See Our Civic Lives for more details.

Find out more about Civic Life on the official Desperate Optimists website.

Joe Lawler directs his local cast

Joe Lawler directs his local cast

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