Before the Australian New Wave, there was Giorgio Mangiamele – and this 1965 multi-AFI-Award-winning film is a testament to the Italian-born director’s talents.
Born in Sicily, Mangiamele arrived in 1952 in Melbourne, where he worked in a small photography studio on Rathdowne Street and made short films centred on the migrant experience – one of a handful of loosely associated filmmakers known as the ‘Carlton ripple’. Clay, his first completed feature, was shot at the Montsalvat artists’ colony in Eltham and tells the story of Nick, a criminal on the run who becomes an object of fascination for young sculptor Margot, who shelters him.
The third Australian title ever selected to compete at Cannes, Clay was self-financed by Mangiamele, who mortgaged his own home to complete the project, and struggled to find a commercial release locally. It went largely forgotten and unseen until its 2011 restoration by the NFSA (which was screened at that year’s MIFF). Drawing on a range of inspirations, from Italian neorealism to French impressionism, the film reveals Mangiamele as an expressive, poetic crafter of images, with a style unprecedented in Australia at its time.
“Mangiamele’s story is not just about his films but also that of a human struggle for personal identity and recognition of cultural diversity.” – Senses of Cinema