Steven Ball
Marie Craven
Solrun Hoaas
Daryl Dellora

Melbourne independent filmmakers

Leo Berkeley
Giorgio Mangiamele
Michael Buckley
Moira Joseph

Giorgio Mangiamele


The adventure of Clay

Page compiled by Bill Mousoulis.
Thanks to Rosemary Mangiamele for documentation.
Image of Clay courtesy Raffaele Lampugnani.

Whichever way you look at it, the case of Giorgio Mangiamele is a unique one. In the early to mid '50s, when Italian cinema was arguably at its peak (with maestri Rossellini and Fellini producing their best work), Giorgio was a keen young film student wanting to enter the world of cinema. It is at exactly this juncture, however, that he chose to leave his home with its rich heritage, and emigrate to Australia, with its promise of freedom and possibility. The next 10 years were not easy for him, though, as Australia's film industry was (a) moribund to begin with, and (b) hardly encouraging towards "outsiders", but he managed to create some wonderful works such as The Spag (1962) and Ninety Nine Per Cent (1963). This endeavour culminated in the production of his first (completed) feature, Clay (1965), a work stunningly different from those that preceded it. Abandoning the rough neo-realist stylistics, and also the Italian thematics, of the previous films, Clay drove head-first into art-cinema territory, as exemplified at the time by such directors as Bergman and Polanski. In this context, it is not surprising that it was selected to screen at Cannes, as it would have measured up well against other films at the time. Instead of signalling a triumph, however, the Cannes selection precipitated what now must be seen as one of the biggest blights on the name of Australian (film) culture: there was no official support given to Mangiamele or the film to attend Cannes. And, in the years that followed, Mangiamele struggled to make more films - in fact, he directed only one other feature, Beyond Reason (1970). Obviously the new wave of Australian feature film-making in the early '70s declined to pick Mangiamele up, for whatever reasons. As Scott Murray wrote on the occasion of the passing away of the director just a couple of years back: "In vibrant film cultures, filmmakers of all ages and cultures work together, the young gaining immeasurably from associating with the experienced and differently orientated. Australia was too ageist, too narrow in its view about what sort of films ought to be made, for there to be space for a sensitive, inventive, deeply-passionate filmmaker like Mangiamele." Sadly, Australia does not seem to have learnt its lesson in the intervening years, as its recent film history is littered with directors who have been allowed to make only the one or two features.

I now present some documentation from the time of Clay's adventure at Cannes, to give a sense of the period.

Bill Mousoulis, May 2003.

The road to Clay: a profile of Mangiamele from 1962, around the time of The Spag, written by Colin Bennett, a consistent supporter of Mangiamele.


Clay makes the Cannes list and there is no government support forthcoming, as this letter, item at left, in The Bulletin attests. And then, second item, a mysterious woman casually steps into Mangiamele's studio and hands him an envelope stuffed with cash, to help the film's cause.


Flying the flag in Cannes, or How a picture can tell a multitude of stories - even the Australian flag wasn't readily available at the time. Note the mixed look on Mangiamele's face.


And, a year later, back in Melbourne - "Giorgio Mangiamele and his film group" four-wall the Palais for a series of screenings, proper theatrical distribution found wanting.

Back to Giorgio Mangiamele profile



Melbourne independent filmmakers is compiled by Bill Mousoulis