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Adelaide has a hero moment as film festival launches

by David Tiley


The film was Mrs Carey`s Concert, which gripped its audience liked an enthusiastic teenager with a cello and a lush romantic solo. From Bob Connolly, Sophie Raymond and Helen Pankhurst, it is a beautifully braided account of a gruff teacher driven to construct a wonderful concert in the Opera House using nothing but her excellent staff, amazingly talented students, and all the resources of a rich Sydney private school.


This is a lovely film, a fine work from a master beautifully supported by both partners and team. The characters are so neatly set up, so deftly pushed along by their responses, so evocative at moments of stress, so passionate in their own identities, it becomes the absolute best in observational filmmaking. We all just wanted to watch, for ninety minutes which were really only a bunch of kids sawing away on violins while their teachers manoevered them past the pitfalls of adolescence. But the clarity and precision put us in the orchestra with the kids, and we laughed and gasped at every twist and turn.


This is really the quintessential arts documentary, which gets to the heart of a traditional art form. We watch a bunch of modern young women confront themselves, test their courage, find their emotional resources to open their hearts to the music, their destiny and a civilisation. True dinks.
The privilege grates a little, and I heard an impassioned outburst from one parent whose child has just gone through the best of the government`s offering, which is simply much less. But the quality of the staff and resources are part of the dynamic of the film - we get endless pleasure watching them at work, and they are central to the dramatic tension in the story. They push the kids forward, as we ache for them to obey, and they stumble towards themselves.


This opening was crafted with great care, and a deal of industry. As Bob Connolly said afterwards with a sense of wonder, "There are five hundred speakers in that room..." The Festival Theatre had been tuned properly to the sound track, which itself glories in the music, and the realities which hack into its sumptuous flow.


Then, as the audience purred like happy cats, Emily Sun, the lead musician, herself popped up and played, supported by the orchestra pit which turned out to conceal live musicians. And then the whole mob, filmmakers, teachers and some students, came onto the stage and the audience went berserk in an Adelaide kind of way. There was a lot of generous standing and clapping, but a good European festival foot stamp is not part of its decorous tradition.