I, Eugenia

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The film convention of the biographical motion picture – the biopic – is a dramatic exploration of the lives of actual people living or dead. In recent decades this form has been the focus of experimentation for filmmakers engaged in testing the limits of historical storytelling. While the conventions of the historical fiction film have expanded and diversified, particularly in their pictorial style, contemporaneous developments in life-writing and unreliable narration in fiction have rarely been explored in film. The film I, Eugenia by Gabrielle Finnane explores the narrative possibilities of the biographical film genre through an experimental exploration of a contentious and marginal figure in Australian history – the cross-dresser Eugenia Falleni. The film’s visual style: hot sunlight, deep interior colours and the childlike stubbornness of the characters form a ritual mask for the film's droll reflections on the enigma of being oneself. Narrated by a deceased Falleni, the ironic voiceover and hieratic imagery – tableaux staged in provincial Sydney's deserted spaces – suggest historical dream-image, rather than historical reconstruction. The film combines an awareness of the unreliability of the narrator with a sense of the inaccessibility of the past. The screening history of I Eugenia demonstrates its significance and value: in 1998 the film received the Dendy Award for Best Australian Short Film, General Category, at the Sydney Film Festival; 1999 it was one of only four short films selected from international competition to screen with 24 feature films in the Seattle Women In Cinema Film Festival; it has been competitively selected for screening in 16 international film festivals.
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Finnane, Gabrielle Mary
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Deocampo, NIck
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