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Melbourne independent filmmakers

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Luigi Acquisto



Some reviews of
Luigi Acquisto’s films

Spaventapasseri (1986, 32 mins, 16mm, drama)

"Entertainment Films" by Susan Dermody, Essays, AFI Catalogue, 1988.

A small, imperfect miracle of a film, oblique in its preoccupation with memory. I think Fellini would feel a twinge of envy if he saw Spaventapasseri.

Spaventapasseri (1986, 32 mins, 16mm, drama)

"Short Circuit" by Vikki Riley, Cinema Papers, November 1986.

Spaventapasseri, by Luigi Acquisto, is simply a knockout, a Swinburne student film without any trace of industry mimickry, which represents a very Australian instance of cross-cultural filmmaking. It is in Italian, with subtitles, set in the sixties but without any traces of nostalgia. Its basic themes are the push and pull of family life, transplanted from Italy to Australia, and the sense of loss that implies, as well as the value of the family bond.

The grandfather still obsessively tends his pigs, the family still upholds the supremacy of work as an indicator of honour, the homosexual son is frowned upon and, when he is called up, it is a chilling joke that this is a result of his eagerness to be an Australian citizen.

There is a recurring metaphor of death and renewal in the companionship between the grandfather and the grandson, a sense of inheritance and continuity in the last scene where the boy buries the old man in a routine fashion that rivals any scene from Kaos, concluding the film on a folkloric note, somewhere in Altona.

Once Were Monks

Once Were Monks (2000, 5 x 26 mins, video, documentary, co-director – Andrew Sully)

"Once Were Monks" by Andrew Haughton, TV Eye, Eye Magazine, April 9, 2000.

This is pure pleasure. A bunch of monks in Melbourne has to move across the road to a pub while their place is being renovated. Producer/director Luigi Acquisto has made this so well and so unobtrusively that any sense of film-making is lost in the delight of watching the men of the Blessed Sacrament Order at St Francis Church and Monastery handle their domestic upheavals. Clinically blind Brother Gerard Devlin has to entrust his budgie, Francis, to a nervous nun for safekeeping. "Be a good budgie," she says and then adds a heartfelt "Don’t die". They enjoy a drink, a joke, a good time and a good argument. Gather Gonzalo is impressed by the Dalai Lama; less so with church. Father Ken likes doing aerobatics in a glider. I love this and am pleased to tell you there are four more episodes. Bravo, Luigi.

East Timor - Rosa's Story

East Timor – Birth of a Nation (2002, 2 x 55 mins, video, documentary)
Episode One - Rosa's Story (Director: Luigi Acquisto)

"A Nation Unmerciful" by Corrie Perkin, Critical Mass, The Sunday Age, May 19, 2002.

While the ABC remains committed to broadcasting documentary series such East Timor – Birth of a Nation (True Stories, Tuesday, 10pm) it deserves strong Federal Government support. At the very least, can someone please hurry up and appoint a managing director?

The first short film in this series, Rosa’s Story, captures the hardships of a fledgling democracy through the experiences of one 27-year-old woman. Born on the eve of Indonesia’s occupation of her country, Rosa fled the occupying forces of 1975 with her parents and seven brothers and sisters. Her mother died of starvation, her father was tortured and murdered. Six of her siblings perished. And still, Rosa loves her country.

At the time the film was made – one year after the 1999 referendum – Rosa is a widow and a mother of six. The three older children live in orphanages because their mother is too poor to feed, clothe and educate them. As we join Rosa on her long bus trip to visit her offspring, we hear her tale and gain a little understanding of East Timor’s trip to hell and back again.

"The militia was burning the houses so we ran here," Rosa recalls the tense period in 1999 following the nation’s vote for independence. "We could not open the gate so we ripped off the wire and threw the children over so we could shelter inside." As she walks around the old United Nations compound, we see the metres of barbed wire on the ground. "The militia would have killed us."

Rosa was evacuated to Australia with her three youngest boys. Her two daughters and oldest son were kept safe by the nuns and priests, although Rosa weeps when she explains her children were told their mother might have perished in the fighting.

There are many women like Rosa in East Timor. Her husband, the father of four of the children, died of malaria. Rosa then twice became pregnant to men who promised to marry her and take care of her children. This is very common, explains one nun, among women who have lost husbands in the fighting, or through one the prevalent illnesses such as malaria. To see Rosa in her one-room shanty in the hills outside Dili, her kitchen just a pile of rocks around a small open fire, and her bedroom only a mattress she shares with her three boys, you understand the severe poverty of this country.

Congratulations to the ABC for screening this documentary, although we must again complain about this potentially alienating 10pm timeslot. Rosa’s story deserves to be heard by every Australian who was riveted to the events of late 1999, and who remain anxious for the rebuilding task ahead.

© the respective authors.

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Melbourne independent filmmakers is compiled by Bill Mousoulis