Skip to main content


Australia, 1999 (MIFF 1999, Australian Showcase)

Director: Tony Ayres

A brave and moving documentary based on photograph­er William Yang's acclaimed stage show of the same name. Sadness explores the roots of Yang's Chinese-Australian identity, and his grief at the AIDS related deaths of his friends. As an intriguing subplot, the tilm also deals with Yang's investigation of his uncle's mur­der, which occurred in Queensland in the 1920s, and explores the implications this had on the Chinese com­munity at the time, and on the legacy Yang inherited.

The film's evocative visual style combines Yang's own slide-projected photographs with rear-projected imagery and dramatised re-enactments of his family sto­ries in order to maintain the essence ot the stage perfor­mance. In style, Sadness recalls Mark Rappaport's (From the Journals of Jean Seberg [MIFF 1996], The Silver Screen. Colour Me Lavender [MIFF 1998]) equalling striking documentaries. It was shot over three weeks in part in Yang's home town of Dimbulah, far north Queensland.

Sadness is an intimate and revealing portrait of the world which William Yang inhabits. As he explains in the film, "The Chinese believe that the true self, the real 'I' is a spirit which never dies, which is eternal". Sadness is a celebration of that spirit. When the conceptual bridge between the two stories of death is built, this Chinese maxim becomes a spiritual beacon, guiding the film's singular direction.

See also...


Winner of two prizes at the 2002 Berlin Film Festival (including the Teddy for Best Feature) and also selected for the Hong Kong Film Festival, Walking on Water is a refreshingly unsentimental, and ... More »


A filmmakers documentary on photographer, David Edwards, who has been taking photo­graphs of naked men for the past eleven years. Hundreds of albums line his shelves. One section of David's wall ... More »


“A finely chiseled drama about an unstable Chinese mother struggling to reconcile her desires with her children's needs in early 70s Australia… speaks bittersweet truths about life in ... More »


Like the Maysles brothers Grey Gardens (1976), The Producers: A Documentary is a poignant and excruciat­ingly honest film portrait of two old friends. Graeme and John, the original odd couple. We ... More »


From tatts to taffeta, from the kings of meat to meeting the King, Shopkeepers looks at the changing nature of service in a self-serve world. The film is a series of por­traits of seven Melbourne ... More »


Brian McKenzie has fashioned a deeply personal docu­mentary about Noel Mason, a Melbourne man trying to earn a meagre living as a children's entertainer. Noel is clown/magician 'Mister Biscuit' ... More »

Select a festival
Search The Film Archive
Browse By Director