Ladies of the Cemetery is a video installation on the Bridge Projection Space by Kingston Arts Grant recipient and filmmaker, Donna McRae. The project references the story of two 19th century female ‘ghosts’ in Kingston's Cheltenham Pioneer Cemetery – their home for over a hundred years.
On Sunday 24 March, I attended a graveyard talk given by the Friends of the Cheltenham Pioneer Cemetery. It was an extensive talk, which brought attention to 10 particular women who are buried there. Some of them were wealthy, most were poor, but all had a common history of perseverance and tenacity. In a place where hardships were commonplace and women were not treated fairly, these women paved the way for their later sisters to flourish.
After the talk I wondered whether these women actually knew that we, over a hundred years later, were listening to their stories and that their ghostly memories were fuelling our imaginations. The group attending had reached out to the past and provided a portal in which these women could reappear and reanimate.
I believe that this work will speak on many levels; to the history of the area, the poetic nature of the performance and its ghostly tendencies. I believe this work will not only inform but be enjoyed by many, and will highlight how art and ghosts can come together to showcase the area’s history.
Melbourne-based filmmaker Donna McRae is undaunted by ‘swimming against the tide’. She works across colour, black & white, long takes and multi-channel video with exceptional fluency. Her particular interrogations of ghosts, 19th century gender roles and post-punk rock‘n’roll offer a surprising and powerful potential.
After graduating from the VCA, Donna had several shorts selected for local and international festivals while her first micro-budget feature, Johnny Ghost (2012), won seven awards and two Special Jury Prizes. Her video installations have screened in galleries here and overseas and she makes collaborative works and music videos with visual artist Michael Vale.
Her second micro budget supernatural feature Lost Gully Road has worldwide distribution, won Best Feature at three International Film Festivals and is sold to Channel 9. Her feature documentary Cobby: The Other Side of Cute has upcoming distribution with LABEL. In development she has Kate Kelly, a ‘ghost’ western about Ned’s sister, Knock Knock, a horror film set around Mildura, and a five part speculative fiction ghost story called Preservation. Donna has been nominated for Best Direction in a Feature Film for Lost Gully Road at the Australian Directors Guild awards in 2019. She lectures at Deakin University.
Cast and Crew of Ladies of the Cemetery:
Rose (19thC ghost): Eleanor Webster
Susannah (1970’s ghost): Jess Ciancio
Director: Donna McRae
Director of Photography: Laszlo Baranyai, HSC, ACS
Camera Assistant: Peter White
Makeup and Hair: Meg Guthrie
Wardrobe: Tricia Simmons
Production Assistant: Abigail Tay
Production and Equipment Support: Matt Skarajew
Editor: Donna McRae
VFX Artist: Chris Tomkins
Sound: Donna McRae