We feature a selection of four short films from South Australia — Aquaphobe, The Recordist, System Error and A Very Lockdown Birthday — part of the ‘Made in SA’ program from this 2020’s Adelaide Film Festival – by Vanessa Abbott

Aquaphobe | Cinematography by Claire Bishop

Miriam (Shabana Azeez) in ‘Aquaphobe’ – DOP Claire Bishop

Short film Aquaphobe tells the story of Miriam (Shabana Azeez), a young woman who used to be a cat. After unexpectedly turning into a human one night, Miriam is suddenly faced with the challenges of the human world. When she embarks on a romance with Alex (Stanley Browning), her former owner and an aspiring professional swimmer, she is forced to confront her paralysing fear of water or risk losing her relationship.

The underwater photography is clear and crisp, and scenes in and around the swimming pool are beautiful in their planning and execution. Colours are washed out, evoking an almost 1970s aesthetic. Shots of the cat are dark and mysterious; a clever way of distilling a somewhat supernatural element without seeming too distant from reality. “I’ve always had an affinity for films that incorporate an element of fantasy or science fiction into what would otherwise be a typical drama,” says director Melanie Easton. The cat also, it must be said, delivers a great performance. 

Cinematographer Claire Bishop (Observer, Konya) utilises soft filters and focusing in some of the bedrooms scenes between Miriam and Alex, which delivers subtle results well-fitted for the moment. While some of Bishop’s hand-held work is a bit shaky in parts, the cinematographer paints the world of Aquaphobe in a manner far exceeding her years of experience. And, with Bishop receiving the John Leake OAM ACS Emerging 

Cinematographer Award in 2019 she is one young artist to watch. A must see from the Adelaide Film Festival this year.

Claire Bishop won the John Leake OAM ACS Emerging Cinematographer Award in 2019.

Vanessa Abbott is a writer based in Melbourne.

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