Ah McKenna - You've Done it Again

Maddelin McKenna – you’ve done it again. Following up from her award winning, directorial debut short film Nice Girls, McKenna to no surprise, has once again struck a chord with audiences regarding her honest depiction of Australian youth before the birth of technology, with her second short film Skates

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McKenna’s directorial debut short Nice Girls, follows three young women who are questioned by police about a murder that has taken place in their small country town. From the first opening image of a lonely clothesline spinning in the foreground of a washed out blue sky, to the following images of a dirt country road and a rundown opportunity shop front, as the haunting voice of Tessa played by Jess Kennedy describes the lonely town her and her friends Soph (Georgie Jennings) and Ruth (Georgia Hunter) are living in, we begin to realise that the town to which is dying socially and economically is a character in itself, playing host to the crimes as it influences the behaviour of the girls. As the film continues, the haunting voice of Kennedy motivates a sequence of flashbacks to the lead up of the crime. It is evident that McKenna’s directing style is very much to the similarity of Lynne Ramsay’s short film Swimmer and David Michôd’s Animal Kingdom as the slow pacing, tight framing, moody lighting, performances and mise en scène of the film allows the audience to process and feel a part of the environment the girls are living in, catapulting us into the world, leaving an unforgettable impact in our minds. 

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Since the release of Nice Girls in 2016, the film has gone on to be selected as part of the 2017 St Kilda Film Festival’s Australia’s Top 100 and the Under the Radar Youth Competition. It won Best Youth Film at closing night ceremony. The film then went on to be part of the Official Selection for Cinefest Oz and the Melbourne Women in Film Festival. 

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In comparison to Nice Girls, Skates certainly pulls no punches. If you’re wondering what a lonely Australian New Year’s Eve in 1979 looks like, then you’ve come to the right place. Set against the backdrop of a bleak suburban town on New Year's Eve 1979, a young boy working at the local roller-skating rink forms a bond with a girl skating there that night. It is a delicate story about two identities, who find solace in each other’s shared feelings of loneliness and isolation on the last night of the year. It is clear from the flawlessly executed opening one-take which simply observes people living as the camera is motivated by the movements of the patrons occupying the roller rink, that McKenna’s love for cinema, observing people in motion and capturing the subtleties of youth really comes into play, much like photographer Bill Yates who produced the unforgettable photo series Sweetheart Roller Skating Rink.

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The comparison between McKenna’s Skates and Yates’ photography is strikingly similar, as they both explore the subtle beauty yet brutal themes of growing up in lower middle class suburban town. As the film goes on, it is evident that we as the audience are observing The Girl, wonderfully performed by Renee Kypriotis, in her dream-like state from the perspective of The Boy’s shoes, honestly and subtly played by William McKenna, as he stares at her in a lull. As the film goes on, we want nothing more than the two of them to be together, because we as humans can relate to their situation, also longing for companionship and closure. The film ends with a surprisingly satisfying sucker-punch to the guts, leaving the audience with a strange mix of emptiness and curiosity, much like the characters are, as they shift from one year to the next, experiencing the same existential state of mind, discovering their place in their meaningless town in comparison to the rest of the world. As the final credits roll, we ourselves reflect on our youth, leaving a nostalgic and bitter-sweet taste in our mouths. 

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McKenna has followed up her success from 2017, once again, with deserving Official Selections for 2018 St Kilda Film Festival Australia’s Top 100 as well as HollyShorts Film Festival. Skates went on to win Best Short Film at Emerge Film Festival in 2018. 

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Nice Girls will continue its festival circuit, while Skates is set to screen at the Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles this August.

Directors Biography:

Maddelin McKenna is a writer director from Melbourne, Australia. Drawn to telling stories set in obscure locations, she has a strong focus on female characters and outsiders.

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Best known for her short film, Nice Girls which was selected as part of the 2017 St Kilda Film Festival’s Australia’s Top 100 and the Under the Radar Youth Competition. It won Best Youth Film at closing night ceremony. The film went on to be part of the Official Selection for Cinefest Oz and the Melbourne Women in Film Festival.

She Directed and Edited a short documentary titled Make Your Mark about female identifying AFL players and their experiences trying to create space for themselves in a male dominated sport. It premiered at the 2017 International Festival of Ethnological Film in Belgrade, Serbia. This year it has been selected as part of 2018 St Kilda Film Festivals Australia’s Top 100.

Her graduate short film Skates, set in a roller skating rink on New Year’s Eve 1979, was also part of the Official Selection for 2018 St Kilda Film Festival Australia’s Top 100 as well as HollyShorts Film Festival. Skates went on to win Best Short Film at Emerge Film Festival in 2018.

Earlier this year she undertook a Director's Attachment shadowing Goran Stolevski on the fourth series of Nowhere Boys for Matchbox Pictures.