Australia (MIFF 1990 )
Director: Aleksi Vellis

I SWEAR THERE WERE MOMENTS in Aleksi Vellis' deliriously out of control Nirvana Street Murder when I fully expected Alwyn Kurts or Leonard Teale to appear around the next grimy Fitzroy backstreet in the best tradition of vintage Crawford's police dramas. Such is the energy and vigour of this unexpectedly polished Melbourne indy feature, a quirky black comedy with a genuinely intriguing dramatic heart — the whatever-the-odds bonds between two brothers living on the breadline in inner-suburban Melbourne.

The unstable Boady (Little) is sheltered by his pregnant girlfriend Penny (Saulwick) and his protective younger brother, Luke (Mendelsohn). While the parents-to-be fantasise of heading for Nimbin, Luke works in the local abbatoirs and looks after a rich old woman in his spare time. Luke's girlfriend Helen (Coustas), fights a running battle with her Greek family to ever see her boyfriend, which comes to a head when her young cousin starts a blackmail racket against her. This will eventually lead to the downfall of them all, but not before. Vellis has some fun with his Greek stereotypes (all gold chains and hotted-up Valiants), and Molly is almost drowned in her waterbed.

Funded as a 50 minute short-feature, Vellis and producer Fiona Cochrane stretched the already meagre budget to feature length as they saw that the material would justify it. Vellis, another Swinburne graduate, spent 8 months editing and re-editing the film down to the finely tuned version on display here — its first ever public screening. His skillfully staged and cut action sequences alone indicate a startling new talent. Just where these skills are directed in the future could be of great interest.

In their widely respected 2 volume work The Screening Of Australia, Liz Jacka and Susan Dermody. coined the wonderfully appropriate phrase "AFC genre" to describe the sort of safe, comfortable Australian productions they saw as dominating our film production through the 70s and 80s. Nirvana Street Murder flies in the face of this tradition, with feet firmly planted in the action genre. As such, if s one of the few local features of its kind, and surely slots into Jacka /Dermody's other sub(-versive) category of Melbourne Mavericks. -(TB)

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