IDFA 1999


Tony Ayres
52 min
Festival history
SADNESS is based on the stage play of the same name by William Yang, who is primarily known as a photographer. The form of the play was sober; it consisted of a monologue with slides, a combination that left a profound impression on the audience. In the film, the makers have tried to preserve this compelling force, which is guided by Yang’s voice and images. But the film is more than a studio registration, and apart from the lines and slides from the original show it incorporates a combination of stylised dramatisations, background projections and images of the surroundings of Queensland with its sugar plantations. In SADNESS, William Yang, an Australian of Chinese extraction, examines two sides of his identity that have been shaped and influenced by death. On the one hand, he searches for his roots in northerly Queensland, where one of his relatives was once killed. The other thread in the film is Yang’s grief for the many friends he lost to AIDS over the past years. The photographs of his ancestors and the pictures he made of his ailing friends make him an eyewitness of this time, but at the same time a mirror is in some way held up to him, so he can unify his personal history with present-day life and experience the comforting effects of this process. As Yang says himself: ‘The Chinese believe that the true self, the real ‘I’, is a spirit that never dies, which is eternal. SADNESS is a celebration of that unyielding spirit.‘
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