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At the Formal

Graduating year 12 students in formal attire, their parents and teachers, mill around the grounds and car park of a hall in the twilight. At first glance, it looks like the normal proceedings of a school formal. Parents get photos with their children, clusters of 18 year olds chat excitedly and one boy is hoisted on the shoulders of his friends. But as time goes on, the observation of uncanny moments hint that things may not be exactly as they seem.

Film notes

At the Formal is a film that compares the modern ritual of a high school formal with the ancient rituals of historic civilisations, asking the question: Beneath the veil of civil ideals, have we really changed that much?

I find the connection between short films and poems useful in my filmmaking and this particular film was developed from a poem I wrote one night after witnessing the aftermath of a high school formal.

At first it was kind of magical. The girls and boys were resplendent in their eveningwear. They held hands and seemed to be almost dancing down the footpath, but as the procession went on, things became more sinister. The faces became sweaty and grotesque, people were urinating in the gutter, fights broke out, I almost stepped on a young man vomiting in a hedge and the air was sickly sweet with the smell of premixed drinks.

To me these teenagers, dressed so elegantly and behaving so bestially, symbolised a conflict, present within us all… and so I made a film about it.

As the film was adapted from a poem, I was searching for a simplicity and economy in the form, as well as a way to capture the dream like quality the experience had accrued in my memory. The long shot at the beginning makes sure the film is something to be experienced rather than immediately understood and the soundtrack speaks more of the jungle than a Formal event – which is where I thought I had found myself on the night I was privileged enough to stumble through this ritual, as a sober intruder.

Andrew Kavanagh, writer/director.
school macabre ritual

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Previous screenings

2011
21 Jul – 7 Aug | Melbourne, Australia

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Information on this profile is provided by the film owners and/or compiled from available sources | Profile updated 21 Sep 2011