By Matthew Worboys
Director Alex Kelly is always on the lookout for interesting, intercultural projects. Now, with some financial help from Screen Australia, Screen Territory and ABC TV, Queen of the Desert, Kelly’s most recent project for 360 Degree Films is heading to television.
Queen of the Desert follows a youth worker named Starlady who travels to Areyonga, an indigenous community in Central Australia in the hopes of using her hairdressing skills to help the people there.
“Starlady is an amazing character, full of wit, cheekiness and integrity”, says Kelly. “I visited a community in Western Australia where she had helped Wilurrara Creative set up a salon and was struck by the power of the program and immediately saw a film in my mind – it is such a colourful, playful and visual program.”
Living in Alice Springs, Kelly understands the conception some people have of Central Australia, and hopes to show the communities in a more truthful light. “Central Australia is often misunderstood and misrepresented, and seen as dysfunctional”, explains Kelly. “The idea that there is a vibrant creative youth culture in remote Australia is not something that would occur to most people and I wanted to showcase that.”
Shooting over 12 days, the production crew had over 50 hours of footage to whittle down to the required 30 minute run time. Kelly is quick to compliment editor Simon Wright. “[He] has been such a solid person to work with and has really got the story, characters and the things I want to draw out.”
Queen of the Desert is one of five short form documentaries that have been funded by Screen Australia and ABC TV for their Opening Shot scheme. Other documentaries funded include Ben Eriksen’s Future Radicals, a film about the online vigilante group Anonymous, and Project Baby, a documentary about director Shalom Almond attempts at starting a family using controversial Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis IVF.
On what initially interested her about Starlady and indigenous communities represented in Queen of the Desert, Kelly says “I think that examples of people respectfully and powerfully working together are the kinds of stories that Australia needs to hear right now. We hear so many stories of division and violence, I don’t think we talk enough about what works, how and why.”
The documentaries will be shown on ABC2 in mid-2012.