GILLIAN ARMSTRONG – LOVE LUST & LIES
REVEALING AUDIO-VISUAL PHOTO ALBUM
She’s maturing with her three subjects, Gillian Armstrong tells Andrew L. Urban
after making the fifth in her series on Kerry, Josie and Diana, the three
teenagers in her 1976 film, Smokes and Lollies. They’re 47 now, and two of them
are grandmothers – and very honest ones, at that as can be seen in Love Lust &
Lies, the latest in this revealing audio-visual photo album.
It had been 14 years since she made the 4th documentary about their lives, so
when Sydney filmmaker Gillian Armstrong started ringing her three subjects in
Adelaide – Kerry, Josie and Diana – she met resistance. The 14 year old girls
from her famous first documentary about them in 1976, Smokes and Lollies, are
now 47 and two are grandmothers. Armstrong suggested she fly over and they all
have dinner together.
“It will be lovely to see you,” replied Kerry, “but you’re not going to talk me
into it…” Armstrong laughed. “It will be great, and I WILL try and talk you into
it.” But she was worried, because she feared that Kerry and Josie, both
unwilling to be part of Armstrong’s fifth revelatory documentary about their
lives, would “gang up” on her and talk Diana out of it.
"the importance of the films as a social document"
Once in Adelaide, Armstrong used every argument she could muster to convince
the women that they should take the plunge. “They’re well aware of the media and
they’re not seeking fame, so I asked them to look at the big picture of the
series, to consider the importance of the films as a social document, not just
for Australians generally, but for their families … their children and
grandchildren.” That did it. They were in.
“I thought Not Fourteen Again was going to be the last film but in the final
scene at the farewell dinner when I’m on camera, Josie asks me ‘So Gill is this
going to be the last one?’ I answered that I couldn’t be absolutely sure about
that and that I might just be curious to find out what happened to them all.
“Then in 2008 Dasha Ross from the ABC called out of the blue and asked whether
I’d consider making another instalment in the series. She encouraged me to go
back to Adelaide to find out what had happened in the fourteen years since the
last film. I found it hard to believe it had been fourteen years, but I have to
admit I was curious. So I did go back.”
The first 27 minutes of Love Lust & Lies are devoted to edited highlights of the
previous four, as Armstrong profiles the three, first as teenagers, and then
every seven years. “I felt it was important to include that footage, both for
those who hadn’t seen some or all of the films, and for those who had, to remind
them of the experiences that shaped these women.” It helps set the context for
this fifth film, which is marginally different from the others in that Armstrong
has succumbed to suggestions from friends and colleagues to leave her own voice
in the film. She is seen on camera and the warmth and trust of the relationship
with her subjects is evident.
"more willing to ask questions she may not have dared
to ask before"
“It meant I could leave conversations intact,” she says. She was also more
willing to ask questions she may not have dared to ask before. “We’re all older
and wiser now, and by leaving myself in the picture, I could ask them a question
and they could refuse to answer if they wished. It would make the film real.”
In fact, the three women are revealing and frank about their lives – providing
an audio visual ‘photo album’ of their lives. By definition, the women have
longer stories this time, their personalities are fully formed, and their way of
coping and surviving becomes clearer. “I’m really pleased they were so honest,”
Making this fifth film was hardly different to the others. Armstrong kept the
crew small and even banished production interns to the cars outside when
shooting, to limit the number of people ‘gawking’ at her subjects while they
were on camera. Which, for much of the time, was inside their lounge rooms and
kitchens. “I had to tell these poor young things to try and look normal… these
guys in black standing about a suburban street … it would have looked odd, to
say the least. Neighbours might have called the police. I told them to read a
paper or take a drive…”
When she began shooting, she was “afraid I’d be too old to crawl around behind
the camera in the kitchen like before,” says Armstrong, “but I did it. So maybe
I can do it again in 10 years time. Oh no!” she yelps, “I’d be too old.” But she
doesn’t sound as though she’s convinced of that.
Published May 13, 2010
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Gillian Armstrong on set