Melanie Rodriga

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Melanie Rodriga (née Read) (born 30 September 1954) is a Perth-based New Zealand-Australian film maker, lecturer and Buddhist.[1]

Early life[edit]

Born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Rodriga was the third child of Daphne Mary (Billie) and Albert Thomas (Bertram) Read. Her father was a pianist arranger of the British Dance Band Era, playing with Bert Ambrose and Henry Hall (bandleader), among others.[2] The family moved from Malaysia to Sydney in 1961, and lived in the eastern suburb of Vaucluse. Rodriga graduated from Kambala CofE Foundation School for Girls in 1972. She then traveled to England where she studied filmmaking at Ravensbourne Polytechnic, Bromley, Kent.

Early career[edit]

Rodriga’s career began in Sydney in 1974 at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, where she was trained in production management and film editing for both drama and documentary. Her first film as writer/director was the 1976 experimental short Curiosities. In 1979 she edited Witches and Faggots, Dykes and Poofters.[3] This was one of the first documentaries about the lives of gay and lesbian people in Australia set against the backdrop of the first Sydney Mardi Gras and the arrests that followed.[4] In 1980, having moved to New Zealand, Rodriga began writing and directing her first three short films: Second Sight, about Sally Rodwell and Deborah Hunt of theatre group Red Mole,[5] Them’s The Breaks, a documentary about street kids, and Hooks and Feelers, a short feature based on the Keri Hulme story.[6]

Later career[edit]

Rodriga’s first feature-length film, Trial Run (1984),[7] starred Annie Whittle and was edited by Finola Dwyer.[8] It was the first film in New Zealand to be written and directed by a woman.[9] In the film Rosemary Edmunds (Annie Whittle) has an assignment to photograph a group of rare penguins. She relocates to a remote cottage which appears to be haunted by a previous occupant.[9] Conceived by Rodriga as a feminist thriller, and seen by some critics as a feminist form of "Kiwi Gothic,"[9] Trial Run was feminist in its work practices as well as its ethos: twenty of the twenty-nine people on the production crew were women.[10] Together with Gaylene Preston's Mr. Wrong, Trial Run marked a turning point in New Zealand cinema. According to Conrich and Murray in New Zealand Filmmakers "From this moment on, the centrality of the white, male hero, or anti-hero ... was if not displaced, then constantly undermined."[11] Conrich and Murray argue that Rodriga's Trial Run was the more daring of the two films as it focused "not on the unknown, external danger to women, which the thriller uses most potently, but on threats within the family."[12] In 1986/87 Rodriga directed three episodes of the seven-part TV series Marching Girls. This pioneering series was conceived by actor-writer Fiona Samuel as a response to the lack of challenging female roles in New Zealand television.[13] Rodriga’s next feature, Send A Gorilla, was conceived and developed with three of her Marching Girl colleagues. Set on Valentine’s Day, the film was a feminist critique of the commercialisation of Romance.[14] The film is frenetic and has some fine comic moments, while having a serious feminist subtext.[15] In the 1990s Rodriga focused on TV drama and documentary (and changed her surname to Rodriga early on in the decade). The People Next Door (1994) was New Zealand’s first prime time documentary dealing with gay and lesbian culture. In 1997 Rodriga moved to Perth, Western Australia. While teaching screen production and screenwriting at Murdoch University, Rodriga directed her third feature film, Teesh and Trude (2002) starring Linda Cropper, Susie Porter, Peter Phelps and Bill McCluskey. Teesh and Trude tells the story of a day in the life of two working-class single mums in Perth, Western Australia.[16] The film was nominated for 3 [Australian Film Institute Award]s in 2003. Critics were divided by the film's gritty social realism:

This is a story that won't appeal to viewers who live similar lives or take refuge in sudsers such as Neighbours, which looks like a sugar-frosted Cinderella fantasy compared with this. Strong humanity and even a faint sense of optimism emerge in the final reel as the women assert themselves against the innate bullying and objectification that has been their lot and downfall. It isn't Ken Loach or Mike Leigh but it's in that ambit and the acting is very gritty - Linda Cropper's Trude and Susie Porter's Teesh radiate desperation that is almost palpable and Peter Phelps, as the blustering no-hoper Rod, delivers a penetrating observation of a type that is frighteningly accurate. (Doug Anderson, The Age Newspaper)[17]

In 2010, Rodriga wrote, directed and produced her fourth feature film myPastmyPresent, shot on location in the Margaret River region of Western Australia. myPastmyPresent is a young lesbian love story with Buddhist themes shot with an entirely undergraduate crew.[18] It played at the 16th Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival[19]

Academics[edit]

Rodriga has a BA (Hons) from Murdoch University in Perth and, as of 2011, is in the final year of a PhD there, while at the same time being senior lecturer in Media Studies.[18][20]

Filmography[edit]

Year Title Type Notes
1976 Curiosities short film director, writer
1977 Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Sailor documentary as editor
1977 The Man who Broke the Bank documentary as editor
1979 Witches and Faggots, Dykes and Poofters documentary as editor
1980 Wild South documentary as editor
1981 Them’s the Breaks documentary director, writer, producer and editor
1981 Second Sight documentary director, writer, producer and editor
1982 Hooks and Feelers short film director, writer
1984 Trial Run feature film director, writer
1985 The Minders short director, editor
1986/87 Marching Girls TV director
1988 Send a Gorilla feature film director. Nominated for 3 New Zealand Film and TV Awards
1991 New Zealand Rivers Waikato documentary director, editor
1993 Standing in the Sunshine documentary director
1994 Once a Convent Girl documentary director
1994 TrueLife Stories: The Pip Brown Story short drama director, writer
1994 The People Next Door documentary director, writer
2002 Teesh and Trude feature film Nominated for 3 Australian Film Institute Awards; director, producer and script consultant
2010–2011 myPastmyPresent[21] feature film director, writer, editor and producer

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://profiles.murdoch.edu.au/myprofile/melanie-rodriga/
  2. ^ British Dance Bands 1912-1939 by Brian Rust and Edward Walker Storyville Press London 1973. pp. 13, 19, 136
  3. ^ Witches and Faggots, Dykes and Poofters
  4. ^ "Witches, Faggots, Dykes and Poofters" by Scott McKinnon in Making Film and Television Histories: Australia and New Zealand. Rebecca Beirne, James E. Bennett Eds. pp225-230
  5. ^ Red Mole
  6. ^ Biography from NZ On Screen
  7. ^ Trial Run
  8. ^ Finola Dwyer
  9. ^ a b c "New Zealand's Cinema of a Perilous Paradise" by Ian Conrin In Horror International Steven Jay Schneider, Tony Williams Eds. Wayne State UP p115
  10. ^ Trial Run in Decade of New Zealand Film: Sleeping Dogs to Came a Hot Friday by Nicholas Reid John McIndoe Ltd Dunedin 1986 p. 99
  11. ^ Working in Close Up by Barbara Cairns in New Zealand Filmmakers Ian Conrich, Stuart Murray Eds. Wayne State UP 2007 p. 203
  12. ^ Working in Close Up by Barbara Cairns in New Zealand Filmmakers Ian Conrich, Stuart Murray Eds. Wayne State UP 2007 p. 203
  13. ^ http://www.nzonscreen.com/title/the-marching-girls-1987/series
  14. ^ Reframing Women: A History of New Zealand Film by Deborah Shepard Harper Collins 2000.
  15. ^ Women's Companion to International Film Annette Kuhn and Susannah Radstone Eds Uni of California Press, 1994. p 335-336
  16. ^ http://www.abc.net.au/stateline/wa/content/2003/s802709.htm
  17. ^ Teesh & Trude Review, Doug Anderson, The Age Newspaper, 17 June 2007
  18. ^ a b "Courses available at Murdoch University in Perth Australia". murdoch.edu.au. 2011. Retrieved 21 October 2011. 
  19. ^ "My Past My Present | Showtimes and Tickets | Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival". slgff.strangertickets.com. 2011. Retrieved 21 October 2011. 
  20. ^ "4 results for Melanie Rodriga | Murdoch University". search.murdoch.edu.au. 2011. Retrieved 21 October 2011. 
  21. ^ myPastmyPresent

Reviews[edit]

  1. Film Ink Review of Teesh & Trude by Drew Turney
  2. SBS Movie Show Review of Teesh & Trude
  3. Variety Review of Teesh & Trude by David Stratton