Monday, October 6, 2014

THE GOLDS - A film by Sue Healey

Canberra Dance Theatre's -THE GOLDS

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

Sue Healey is already recognised as one of Australia’s most creative and successful dance film-makers. Her feature length documentary film “Virtuosi” has been screened around the world, and won two National Awards – Most Outstanding Achievement for Dance on Film at the 2013 Australian Dance Awards, and the Silver ACS Award for Cinematography.

Her latest film “The Golds” was premiered in Canberra on Friday, as part of the final screening in the Silver Screening series in the National Film and Sound Archives Arc Cinema. Regretfully, this initiative has now languished -  a victim of funding cuts at the archive.

“The Golds” is a visually arresting, occasionally poignant, insight into the activities of a Canberra dance troupe of over 55’s founded by Canberra choreographer, Liz Lea at Canberra Dance Theatre. Their name stands for “Growing Old Disgracefully”, and some members claim that they were drawn to the troupe by this possibility. However, there is little evidence of disgraceful conduct in this film, and indeed, surprisingly little that could be described as dance, in the accepted form. But there is a plethora of beautifully photographed slow-motion sequences of members of the troupe moving artfully and unselfconsciously through cascading gold flutter tape, among floating gold veils and among flickering candles, to evocative background music composed by Ben Walsh, and featuring viola player Cleis Pearce. 

The movement sequences are punctuated by comments from various members, spoken directly to the camera. Their individual personalities shine through as they annunciate their reasons for being involved in The Golds. Most comments have to do with ageing...”I can’t do the splits”, confides one, “but is it necessary? I don’t think so”. However one forthright lady declares unexpectedly “There’s nothing positive about ageing. I don’t see any positives at all” which serves  to  underline another particularly poignant moment when another participant, considerably older than 55, struggles to retain the exact word that is eluding her attempt to express her thoughts.

There are many other memorable sequences including one in which a retired Brigidine nun dances with her pet dog and another involving a playful quartet interacting with gold picture frames.  
Members of THE GOLDS at Reconciliaton Place

In fact, Sue Healey’s finely tuned choreographer’s eye is perfectly reflected in every image of Judd Overton’s exquisite cinematography to produce a film which is in effect its own form of dance.  The effect is mesmerising and even though it is relatively short, just 23 minutes, the film moves at a gentle pace between a series of visually stunning sequences filmed at various locations around Canberra, including The National Portrait Gallery, Reconciliation Place and the National Arboretum.

This exquisite little film may well be Sue Healey’s Valentine to positive ageing, capturing the particular beauty of the group of people who make up The Golds, but it is also a Valentine to Canberra, which looks stunning throughout. Canberra Tourism could do much worse than embrace this film to promote this very special view of our city nationally and internationally.

Members of THE GOLDS at the National Arboretum