Under the name “Araucaria,” John Graham had been creating cryptic crosswords for the UK’s Guardian newspaper for over 50 years when he was told that he had an incurable form of cancer. He started placing little clues in his puzzles, telling his fans about his illness and how it was progressing. English filmmaker Matt Houghton was fascinated by this story and decided to make a film about Graham, filming him regularly during the months leading up to his death. The result is a poignant, charming short documentary in which we hear only Graham’s voice. He reads aloud letters from fans, who tell him they feel a personal connection to him, and he talks about how he puts his puzzles together. We see him working or looking out across the broad English landscape. In combination with these poetic images, Graham’s calm voice makes Dear Araucaria feel like a puzzle itself – the solution is gradually revealed.
Francesca Boyce for Pulse Films, Alistair Payne-James for Pulse Films, Nicole Jackson for Pulse Films
Graham Hodge, Julia Nottingham for Pulse Films, Merope Mills