Some filmmakers want their stories to be a way for viewers to escape the mundanity of everyday life. For Melbourne filmmaker Sue Brooks, the opposite is true. Delving into ordinary Australian life is what has drawn her to the craft since her first feature film, 1997’s Road to Nhill.
“Alison [Tilson, Sue’s regular collaborator] and I believe the ordinary person’s story can be challenging, rewarding, disappointing, fulfilling and worthy of exploration,” RACV member Sue says.
“Ordinary people’s stories are amazing. Most people have an extraordinary story to tell.”
It’s a vein that runs through Looking for Grace, the fifth feature to be directed and first to be written by Brooks, which opens in cinemas on Australia Day.
The drama stars Richard Roxburgh and Radha Mitchell as parents Dan and Denise, forced to embark on a road trip across Western Australia in search of their runaway teenage daughter Grace, played by newcomer Odessa Young.
Young, hailed by many as the next big thing in Australian cinema, is already winning rave reviews for her powerful performance and her director is at the front of the queue.
“To edit her work is a delight, because when you are in the edit room you can feel and see the small shifts and the honesty,” says Sue.
Much of the film takes place in the expanses of the Western Australian wheatbelt, giving Looking for Grace a uniquely Australian feel despite its universal themes of family and relationships.
“I grew up with granite outcrops, paddocks of wheat, big blue skies and big silos but the Western Australian wheatbelt is enormous,” Sue says.
“The salmon gums nearly explode with energy and light, [and] to drive through an avenue of salmon gums at sunset is a moment of grace.”
Sue has recently returned home from the prestigious Venice and Toronto Film Festivals, where Looking for Grace was screened to warm receptions. In Toronto, it was one of five Victorian films to have been selected, alongside the likes of the film adaptation of Melbourne author Rosalie Ham’s book The Dressmaker.
It was an experience that made the director thankful she had decided against a career in photography.
“My passion is directing performance,” she says.
“I love the experience of taking a script and creating a whole of thoughts.”
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