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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 

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In early 1932, Emily (Memphis Kelly) the only daughter of a farming family in outback Australia, steps out of her bedroom window, fascinated by the full moon beaming down on a dramatic landscape. Distraught and terrified, her mother (Kaarin Fairfax) and father (Paul Kelly) call the police to search for her, but when Albert (Kelton Pell) the black tracker police constable turns up to help, the father refuses to let him – or any other blackfella - on his property, despite the Sargeant’s (Chris Haywood) insistence that Albert’s the best tracker around. When the search party fails to find Emily and the days stretch to weeks, her mother seeks out Albert for his help. Based on a true story.

A truly original work, One Night the Moon is a marvellous achievement for Australian cinema, blending elements of opera and cinema in a striking and gripping drama. Rachel Perkins and her creative team have fashioned a satisfyingly cinematic version of this sad story from the 1930s, which is deeply relevant to the social history of Australia, but told with a well balanced dramatic touch. It’s a personal story, and the race relations are not portrayed with simplistic posturing. But the most outstanding element is the use of music and song, most of it specially composed by the musical team of Paul Kelly, Kev Carmody and Mairead Hannan, using a variety of instruments to achieve a range of musical colours that weave together the cultures portrayed on screen. The operatic – or musical – style is brilliantly used, and with great economy, to highten the emotional dynamics of the film. Most of the songs represent inner thoughts or feelings, but once or twice they are allowed to hit the surface – with great effect. Superbly photographed and edited, this is genuine cinema of the highest order and Australia can be immensely proud of it.
Andrew L. Urban

The essence of Rachel Perkins' striking musical drama is contained in a song shared by a white landowner (Paul Kelly) and a black tracker (Kelton Pell). His daughter missing and too blinded by grief and prejudice to acknowledge her survival hinges on the black man, the white man sings 'this land is mine'. In reply the descendant of the land's original owners sings 'this land is me'. Simple in its perfection and vice-versa. An experiment in story-telling that works most of the time, One Night The Moon makes strong statements about the need for reconciliation in 2001 by telling the fact-based story of a white girl's disappearance in 1932. With a clutch of fine songs written by Mairead Hannan, Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly (also convincing in his acting debut), this packs quite an emotional punch as the doomed search is counterpointed with the mother's growing realisation that the man barred from her land is the only one who can find her child. Through the mother's actions White Australia is asked to look beyond its immediate vision and embrace the common threads uniting everyone who lives on this piece of land. The message is clear, moving and important as we wait for the political executive of this country to actually say sorry. Beautifully shot by Kim Batterham on spectacular Flinders Rangers locations, One Night The Moon carries its political and social commentary smoothly within its human drama and emerges with credit, despite the over-use of heavenly female choirs on the soundtrack. The real movie musical with plot advancement revealed through song lyrics may be almost extinct but it lives impressively here. It may only run 57 minutes but you'll get more from this than most movies with twice the running time.
Richard Kuipers

An exquisite, unique Australian musical drama, One Night The Moon tells a simple story whose weight is in its emotional complexity. Emotions are reflected through music and lyrics, while the harsh, vast landscape of the rugged outback is showcased by splendid cinematography. Rachel Perkins has beautifully captured the essence of this tale with such heartfelt sincerity and adept filmmaking, that it is impossible not to be moved. This is a very different type of film experience – not unlike that of Alan Parker's Evita, when music and song drives the narrative. The impact of the haunting themes and poignant lyrics ('This land is me') reverberates and sings its longing refrain. Paul Kelly brings a real edge to the film with his music and persona, while Kelton Pell's solid, enigmatic presence and rich vocals offers the perfect counterbalance. All the cast is excellent, and the understatement of the underlying racial issues impacts profoundly. We feel a father's desperation, a mother's agony, a black tracker's frustration while the land with its unrepenting harshness changes only with the seasons, the sun and the moon. It's melancholy, haunting, lyrical and unforgettable. One Night The Moon deserves to find its audience; it is a bewitching film for anyone who feels, thinks and hopes.
Louise Keller

Left - Paul Kelly; Right - Kaarin Fairfax

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Andrew L. Urban talks to

Read Brad Green's

a 16 minute short film by Peter Carstairs
Stars: Brett Wood, Joel Edgerton, Tony Ryan


CAST: Paul Kelly, Kaarin Fairfax, Kelton Pell, David Field, Chris Haywood, Ruby Hunter, Memphis Kelly

DIRECTOR: Rachel Perkins

PRODUCER: Aanya Whitehead, Paul Humfress, Kevin Lucas

SCRIPT: Rachel Perkins, John Romeril


EDITOR: Karen Johnson

MUSIC: Paul Kelly, Kev Carmody, Mairead Hannan


RUNNING TIME: 57 minutes



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