1980, 37 minutes
In the outer suburbs of Melbourne, families recently arrived from Calabria continue habits and traditions from their villages. They raise pigs and slaughter them to make salami and other meats. Over the Winter month of June the families combine to assist each other on week-ends until each family has their own supply of meats - butchered, minced and spiced to each’s recipes. They are smoked in garages and sheds in their backyards. On week days, they work in factories or in greengrocer shops. The government’s agricultural department are cracking down on the practice of backyard slaughtering, and this threatens the families’ control of their food. To make the film it was a requirement to include a sequence filmed in the abattoir to demonstrate the modern, hygienic manner of slaughter.
Winner of the Rouben Mamoulian award at the Sydney Film Festival, 1980
The following background to this project was written for Raf Epstein’s ‘Changing Tracks’ segment on ABC Radio.
It was the 60’s and I was in school at an all-boys Tech school - now a thing of the past. In the second form a new boy appeared. He’d run into problems at the stricter St. Josephs and had organized his own transfer to the Tech, which is fair to say was at the bottom of the rankings in the Dandenong district. Angelo’s family had come from Calabria. He was short, stocky and feisty and he had a name painted in white across his school bag, that none of us recognized. Bob Dylan.
We had the same English teacher for three years running. He wore a brown suede jacket worn at the elbows and speckled with dandruff. He seemed the regular, going to seed teacher biding his time in the outer suburbs. But Warren Thomas had plans for us. Not ever did he refer to grammar or spelling. We wrote poetry and plays some of which turned into extravagant productions for speech night in the newly built assembly hall. We competed in debates with the other schools in the district, always getting trounced particularly by the girls who were of course intoxicating.
Angelo and I became close. I’d visit his home where the rear yard was given over to tomato vines and the shed for smoking salami. Sometimes I’d go there for lunch and we’d eat spaghetti with the home-made sauce. As I look back at my friends and their families, fathers were rarely up to the mark. But Angelo’s story was particularly upsetting. He and his sister Rosa had found their father in the shed, dead by his own hand.
Despite this, my experience with Angelo’s family was full of delights, that shook me out of my own suburban existence and gave me a taste for the Italian village style. My most poignant memory of Angelo’s place is a simple one. I was lying on his front grass alone. I’d gone there but found no-one at home (or so I thought) and as I lay in the sun I was awoken from my reverie by the majestic and electric Bob Dylan trumpeting from the phonograph in the front room. It was a treat from my friend who by now had turned me into a connoisseur of Dylan’s music as well as the home-made vino which we sometimes drank instead of returning to school.
At school, fights were held regularly on the oval and at times they’d break out in the class rooms. Languages weren’t taught nor was history, and in English you never quite knew what Warren Thomas had up his sleeve. The first inkling of his waywardness was an assignment involving photography. We were to take a photograph with our parent’s camera of some aspect that struck us and once it was developed and collected from the chemist, we were to bring it to class to discuss. The photograph I took, in black and white, was of a man who could be observed lurking at the front of Coles, a homeless man.
On one occasion Warren Thomas had a devastating experience which for a brief time turned him rather cranky. He took 3 bus-loads of our not so demur tech-school boys to the gracious Rivoli cinemas to see the Russian classic, War and Peace. The Russians had pulled out all stops and used a large contingent of the red army on horse-back. The film was majestic and presented in 70mm wide screen. I subsequently tried to emulate the title sequence where WAR AND PEACE, in huge blocks, was engulfed in wartime flame and destruction. My mother and a neighbour called me off the roof where I’d set up my crudely nailed-together fence palings and set them alight. The excursion to the Rivoli went badly as the film was long and the dialogue was in Russian and subtitled. Despite Warren Thomas’s best efforts, the unseemly behaviour of the rascals amidst us could not be contained. I felt for our teacher and I’ll never forget his blustering red face as he ushered us back to the buses. One of my friends claims that I got this wrong and that it was Doctor Zhivago we watched on that occasion. It could be that War and Peace was shown as a trailer.
Sometimes in class Warren Thomas would plug in a 16mm projector and screen experimental films that he’d borrow from the State Film Centre (also defunct). On one occasion he ran a two-day film festival at the school, screening four films: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, where all the dialogue was not only in French, it was sung. Morgan – A suitable case for Treatment (Directed by the great Czech director Karel Reisz), Macbeth, and The Collector.
It came to pass (once I’d been to Teachers College and learnt a lot more about film making) that Angelo and I made a documentary about his family’s yearly tradition of raising a pig and making the salami as they had done in their village in Italy. Raccolta d’Inverno or Winter’s Harvest was the outcome. The music for the changing tracks segment was Like a Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan.
Frank, Rosa, Silvio and Lara Lappanese
Francesca Maria Gigliotti & Angelo Gigliotti
Natalie and Francesca Mascaro
Tony, Guiseppina, Gidio & Frank Fazio
Angela and Frank Colombino
Angelina, Guiseppe & Peter Scalise