Q&A with Gian Carlo Manara
This Q&A was undertaken with former ABC cinematographer Gian Carlo Manara.
Gian Carlo was the cinematographer for the ABC TV documentary Living on the Fringe, which filmed the gritty lives of those living in Surry Hills and Redfern in the early 1960s.
The recordings were released under open access (CC-BY) licence through the ABC Pool Project ‘Past Forward’, in 2008. You can view excerpts and learn more about this project here.
Q&A With GianCarlo Manara, Director of Living on the Fringe (ABC TV 1964)
GianCarlo Manara, director of the ABC’s 1963 documentary Living on the Fringe, shares some of his memories about the film with Sarah Barns.
SB: What opportunities were there for documentary makers working in Australia at this time? How important was the ABC in supporting documentary production?
GM: At the time we made Living on the Fringe, there weren’t so many opportunities for the few people with sufficient professional skill to make documentaries. The ABC was one of the first institutions to offer that chance, through programs like Big Country.
SB: Was this a difficult film to make within the ABC at this time?
GM: Documentaries like this weren’t very common. It was Allan Ashbolt in the Talks Dept who wanted to use television to make more political documentaries like this one. We worked together on Four Corners – our association grew from there.
SB: What inspiration did you draw from when making this film? (for example, Italian neo-realist films etc).
GM: I graduated in Film Direction and Scriptwriting in Italy in 1955. We all in the school were the products of Italian neo-realism. I personally have been also influenced by other filmmakers such as Grierson, Rota, and Cavalanti.
SB: Did your own migrant story influence this film in any way?
GM: No, I was not influenced by my migrant experience, but by the stark reality of the life of the neglected and the poor. The the media at the time always preferred to ignore this.
SB: How did people on the streets of Sydney react to your filming of them?
GM: Filming in the streets at that time was still a novelty. I often used a “candid camera” approach to catch reality. An exception was when I asked my sexy friend Diana Roberts, now the well know writer Di Morrisey, to walk around some streets in East Sydney. At this time many Italians and Maltese migrants used to hang around on Sunday morning. Migrants at the time were very lonely â?? no social life and above all no women! The “Latin Lover” was not yet a trendy image!
SB: What did you hope audiences would learn from Living on the Fringe?
GM: My hope was for the average viewer to understand that Australia was not just the land of milk and honey – that here, just like other part of the world, there were people in need.
SB: Do you think Sydney is a better city today than it was when Living on the Film was made?
GM: Is Sydney a better place today? It is a big question. It is certainly different – there is more social awareness in the area of welfare and help. Of course lifestyles are also very different. Is it better? If I look back at the Sydney of this time I see a child, and today I see an adult. But is the adult of today better than the child of yesterday? It is a big question… I often think about it, about the old beach carnival when the Life Savers were marching like soldiers, when the girls were wearing petticoats and Saturday night was the night of dance at the Trocadero! All gone! However the girls are still beautiful, and the Life Savers are still so important and so Australian!
But one thing is for sure: the “greed” that today is often rampant was not so much at the time, even if everyone of course attempted to make some quid.