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Australia, 1994 (MIFF 1994, Documentaries)

Director: Anna Grieve, James Manché

The subject of Anna Grieve and James Manché's lively, stimulating documentary is not simply a building and the theatre company (The Australian Performing Group) which it housed. What emerges here is an evocative analysis of a seminal episode in our nation's cultural history, namely, the radically alternative performing arts scene flourishing in Melbourne during the 70s. The collective-based Pram Factory constituted a testing ground and arena for the intellectual, artistic and political energies of those turbulent times.

Combining archival material with contemporary interview accounts, the film shows how a pioneering creative community grew, interacted and eventually splintered into disparate directions. Pertinent matters such as feminism, democratic self-management, censorship and drug usage are discussed by a host of Pram Factory luminaries including playwrights David Williamson, Jack Hibberd and John Romeril, novelist/screenwnter Helen Garner, director John Duigan, and actors Graeme Blundell, Max Gillies, Sue Ingleton and Phil Motherwell. With the wit and wisdom of hindsight, all these practitioners give voice and body to the notions of stretching boundaries, daring to be different, experimenting with the responsibilities of personal and public freedom.

Both the tempestuous rise and gradual decline of Melbourne's Pram Factory helped lay the foundations for a virtual renaissance in Australian culture. The enduring legacy of this liberating adventure, from Dimboola and Stretch Of The Imagination through to Circus Oz, is paid proper, yet also probing, tribute in this exemplary record of an idea that became a theatre, then a 'scene', then a whole exciting phenomenon.

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