1999, 52 Minutes
Award-winning photographer William Yang explores issues of grief, family and identity in this film adaptation of his acclaimed stage performance, Sadness.
A mesmerising, poetic montage of story telling, photography and stylised reenactment, Sadness brings to life the stories of Yang’s family and friends.
Sadness has two themes. The first involves a journey which Yang makes to far North Queensland to investigate his uncle’s murder. Amid lush tropical landscapes he unravels the mystery of Fang Yuen’s death. Along the way, he discovers why his mother had been at such pains to deny his Chinese heritage and assimilate his family into Australian culture.
The second theme centres around grieving. Yang tells us stories of friends who have died of AIDS: ‘When I reread my diaries from the early nineties, I saw that I had been to more wakes than I had been to parties. I felt compelled to tell these stories of my friends, to unburden myself of the things that I have seen’.
These two threads are delicately and skilfully woven to create a documentary that is elegiac and deeply moving, held together by Yang’s presence as compassionate witness. Layering his journey across time, place and culture, Yang reveals the profound unity between grief and love, which lies close to the core of human experience.
A Film Australia National Interest Program. Produced in association with SBS Independent. © 2011 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.
Director: Tony Ayres
Running Time: 52 Minutes
Classification: PG. Consumer advice: Adult themes.