Film Review: Ella

Cinematography by Lucas Pomona.

Review by James Cunningham.

At 24-years-old, Lucas Pomona (Lest We Forget What) has already managed to win fourteen ACS Awards for Cinematography, including four Gold Awards. Pomona was born in Singapore to a Samoan Matai Chief and a NZ Army Major. Raised in Auckland and Brisbane, the AFTRS graduate was set to join the military until he stumbled across an old 16mm film camera. He soon opted for another kind of shooting. Thank goodness Pomona did, otherwise we would not have the feature documentary that is Ella in its current visual form.

Pomona’s first feature documentary Ella as DOP, shot with the Australian Ballet, was been selected to premier at the 2016 Melbourne International Film Festival last month. Ella Havelka made history in 2013 by becoming the first Indigenous dancer at the fifty-year-old Australian Ballet.

In this beautiful and engaging film, Pomona’s camera follows Havelka’s inspiring journey from growing up in modest circumstances as the only child of a single mother in rural Australia, to gaining entry to National Ballet School, then spending years with the acclaimed Bangarra Dance Theatre, before accepting the invitation of the Australian Ballet.

Ella allows Havelka’s dancing to become a collective ticket to a parallel world where the performers’ graceful movements speak on their own. Warm and likeable, Ella welcomes the filmmakers – and, thus, viewers – with open arms. Ella is a rewarding, uplifting and a cultural awakening.

Reviewed at the 2016 Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF).

James Cunningham is the Editor of Australian Cinematographer Magazine.

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