THE ARBOR screens at Sydney Film Festival
TIONG BAHRU will be screening at the Sydney Festival alongside THE ARBOR, Clio Barnard’s groundbreaking study of the life of troubled playwright Andrea Dunbar.
Andrea wrote honestly and unflinchingly about her upbringing on the notorious Buttershaw Estate in Bradford and was described as ‘a genius straight from the slums.’ When she died, tragically at the age of 29 in 1990, she left behind Lorraine, her ten year old daughter.
THE ARBOR catches up with Lorraine in the present day, also at 29; ostracised from her mother’s family and in prison undergoing rehab. Through compelling interviews we learn that Lorraine sees her mother as a destructive force throughout her childhood; an alcoholic who let her suffer abuse and whom Lorraine blames for all that is wrong in her life.
Re-introduced to her mother’s plays and private letters whilst in prison, the film follows Lorraine’s personal journey as she reflects on her own life and begins to understand the struggles her mother faced.
Through interviews with other members of the Dunbar family conducted by director Barnard, we see a contrasting view of Andrea, in particular from Lorraine’s younger sister Lisa, who idolises Andrea to this day. However, these interviews are not presented as documentary – instead these were transcribed verbatim and then enacted by actors lip-synching to the resulting audio soundtracks. Passages of Dunbar’s autobiographical plays are a also cted out in the open spaces of the very estates where she grew up, surrounded by the (presumably real) residents looking on.
A truly unique blend of documentary and fiction, THE ARBOR is a captivating and revelatory piece of cinema. Merging documentary and performance to mesmerising effect, THE ARBOR won a BAFTA nomination and the Best British Newcomer award at the London Film Festival.
THE ARBOR plays at Sydney Film Festival, supported by TIONG BAHRU. Find screening details here.
Mark Kermode reviews THE ARBOR below.