Gabriel White: Oracle Drive (2013)
I'm very glad to report that my good friend Gabriel White's latest film will be included in the 2013 New Zealand International Film Festival, screening in the Academy Cinema on Monday 22nd July at 6.30 pm (or, alternatively, on Tuesday 23rd July at 1.00 pm). As well as having been in it - briefly, till the scenes I was in hit the cutting-room floor - I was also offered the privilege of a sneak preview. The piece I wrote in response (included below) might be interestingly contrasted with the more neutral prose of the festival programme. One thing we're all agreed on, though: "there’s beauty and eerie immanence lurking in the guarded blandness of Albany."
Go on, treat yourself! I think this film is at risk of becoming as defining for the far reaches of the haut North Shore as The Third Man was for post-war Vienna ...
Oracle Drive (NZ, 2013)
Filmed in 2012, North Shore Auckland
Length: 62 min
Director: Gabriel White
Producer: Amelia Harris
Post-production, art and effects: Markus Hofko
Music: Chris O’Connor
Oracle Drive Song: lyrics by Richard von Sturmer
Performers: Gabriel White, Richard von Sturmer, Alexa Wilson, Tessa Mitchell,
Nicholas Butler, Karin Hofko, John Radford
Funded in part by Creative New Zealand, Media Arts, Quick Response
“Is everything left to the imagination, or is nothing left to the imagination?” muses the protagonist of Gabriel White’s new film, as he claws his way up a grassy knoll towards a huge concrete bunker labelled sexyland.
At first sight, nothing could look less sexy: the windswept industrial wasteland, the brute force of the cyclopean walls … and yet, as we continue to watch this small, black-clad figure wander through the strange suburbs and subdivisions of Auckland’s North Shore, the essentially mystical nature of his quest comes more and more into focus.
There are the same images of ubiquitous traffic, tawdry signage, and twee, half-hearted, corporate ornamentation familiar to viewers of Gabriel’s previous cityscapes: Tongdo Fantasia, Aucklantis, The Unplanned Masterpiece. This time, however, a new element has entered the picture: the oracular.
This is, in a sense, if not a religious movie, at least a movie about faith. The strange, brightly clad dancers emerging from portaloos, the hands groping from culverts, the levitating cars and ghostly buses seem entirely in keeping with the network of streetnames he has discovered: Atlantis, Isis, Oak, Nile, Tempo Place – Oracle Drive itself.
I must have driven past some of these spaces a thousand times, and yet Gabriel’s camera has found details that almost make sense of the sheer weirdness of this globalised Edge City, this suburbanised Industrial Area from hell. It isn’t hell, says Gabriel – rather, a new type of purgatory: a testing-ground for the spirit.
As his car glides on, with the droning monotony of the “Drive, Drive, Drive, down Oracle Drive” song insinuating itself ever deeper into our neural pathways, I think we start to realise this is where we live. We’d better start taking Gabriel’s tree-alphabets and Honda pyramids more seriously – like his Phoenix Palm mobile-network towers, it won’t be long before they’re the only vestige of the numinous remaining to us.
“God created Arrakis to train the faithful,” say the desert Fremen in Frank Herbert’s Dune. The same, it is now apparent, must be said of the marshy fields and desert wastes of Albany’s Megacentre.
There have now been quite a few reactions in the press to Gabriel's film (mostly extremely positive):
- 'Ed', Interview with Gabriel White. Flicks.co.nz (17/7/13)
- TBI Q & A: Gabriel White. The Big Idea (19/7/13)
- Janet McAllister, North Shore as you've never seen it before. NZ Herald (20/7/13)
- Anaise Irvine, Locals and perverts. NZIFFanatic (23/7/13)
- Sarah Watt, Omar goodness - Tales from cinema heaven. Stuff.co.nz (24/7/13)
- Lucy Driver, NZIFF R&R: Oracle Drive - A kaleidoscopic tribute to the unexpected beauty of urban sprawl. gather hunt (26/7/13)
- Chris Cudby, Amelia Harris: An Interview. www.undertheradar.co.nz (21/8/13)
- Claire Gummer, Blandness, Beauty, Surprise: The Making of Albany. A Latitude of Libraries (22/8/13)