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Friday, 2 May 2008

Adam Benjamin Elliot "Cousin"





Cousin (1998) is a tale told from the perspective of a young boy, now grown to manhood, who remembers his slightly older cousin who has cerebral palsy. The cousin is a quite remarkable character whose differences have a certain appeal to the child. For instance he is allowed to sit to wee on the toilet, has lots of pets and shirt tops, has a powerful right arm that can project a cricket ball miles (and damage his father's neck in the process), break the finger of a bully and leap off tall buildings (or chicken shacks) wearing a super hero outfit. Other differences are noted by the narrator. The cousin's left hand needs to be pinned down at times to avoid waving around, he greets the narrator with glee but leaves a faint liquid dropping on his shoulder and there is an ever-present smell of liquorice about him. Yet the narrator's cousin is a character to be celebrated. Adults will note his tendency to fly off into a rage, a mood dealt with perfectly by his mother who allows him to bake a cake. The cousin loves baking cakes, particularly doing the decoration. The cousin is happiest when fully submerged under the water. I was most of all touched by the conclusion, as the two boys grow up and, due to a family tragedy, become estranged. Made in 1998 by the Academy Award winning director of the 2003 Harvie Krumpet, Melbourne based Adam Benjamin Elliot's four minute short is like his other similar movies a claymation film about people with problems to confront in their lives. Adam's films in the main are narrated by Willian McInnes in a forthright fashion that convinces utterly. Against a bare backdrop, Adam's carefully selected figures and scenes, together with a wonderful script, work a peculiar magic. It is brave story-telling, beautifully delivered by McInnes. Cerebral palsy, tackled like this without skirting the issues of disability, is hard to define in a meaningful way in an animation. The added perspective provided by a young boy, albeit further distanced by having grown up, allows humour and truth without sentiment. The link is to Atom Films though the DVD may be purchased in compilation form: The Bold, The Brave, The Best Of Australian Animated Shorts. Adam's work is part of an autobiographical short film trilogy, Uncle, Cousin and Brother. His official website is worth a look.

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