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Silent Partner

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Movie propaganda

Life's a bitch and then you race one.

Silent Partner is a tragi-comedy about friendship and survival in a world of limited opportunities.

Bill (Syd Brisbane) and John (David Field), two down-on-their-luck blokes in their 30s, are offered the chance of a lifetime, to race a greyhound, Silent Partner (Hebe), for the infamous Mr Silver. They eagerly take possession of the red brindle bitch, down lots of booze and wait for Mr Silver's instructions.

Pretty soon, Silent Partner runs a close second at a bush track and Bill and John make preparations for her big city debut which Mr Silver has "taken care of". When Silent Partner runs a mediocre fourth at Wentworth Park, John takes it very badly. Bill, the official trainer, remains confident.

Upon Mr Silver's instructions Bill and John reluctantly dope Silent Partner in her second city appearance. They back it with all the money they can scrounge and John agrees to buy out the dog. Silent Partner wins by two lengths and the boys celebrate two victories; a champion dog and outsmarting Silver. Or have they?

Written by Daniel Keene, music by Paul Kelly, directed by Alkinos Tsilimidos.

Cinematic intelligence sources

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report

Bill and John, a couple of single syllable names for a couple of single syllable guys.

If you've never been west of David Jones it's unlikely that you've ever met anyone like these two blokes, but you can rest assured that they are out there. Hanging out at the local Westfield. Catching the train to Campbelltown. Falling asleep outside the pub. Buying cigarettes at the supermarket. They are the closest thing Australia has to white trash.

Rowan Woods took a look at these boys in The boys, but those boys had half a brain. There's a closer example in Chopper, Simon Lyndon's expert loser Jimmy Loughnan, but even Jimmy has the sense to hang out with someone who's smarter than he is, even if Jimmy does try to rip him off. No, what Bill and John represent is the end result of 200 years of selected in-breeding from a ship full of convicts trapped in a great sunburnt land and 80 years of socialism. Ya can't get better than that.

Alkinos' guerilla approach to making the film (it took almost a week before it was all in the can!) is perfectly suited to the subject matter. When you have three months of shooting time you inevitably run over schedule because you sit back, you relax, you think about your mortgage, your career, your Oscar nomination... the last thing you do each day is make a movie. Cut the time short, get the juices flowing and bugger "once more for safety"! You can even forgive the poor young guy at the beginning of the film who's down at the track for a wee flutter and finds himself in the middle of a feature film! D'oh!

Silent Partner is a great comedic tragedy that allows you to look down on the main characters as much as you pity them. The next time you see someone like Bill or John in the street asking for a dollar for the bus, you'll easily remember to keep your eyes down and walk on by. What a ripper.

Media intelligence (DVD)

  • Audio: Dolby Digital
  • Disc: Single layer, singel side
  • Languages: English
  • Picture: Widescreen 16:9

Security censorship classification

MA 15+ (Medium level coarse language)

Surveillance time

84 minutes (1:24 hours)

Not for public release in Australia before date

Film: 16 June 2001 - Sydney Film Festival
Film: 16 August 2001 - National
DVD rental: 24 April 2002
VHS rental: 24 April 2002

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Director's statement
I have always been inspired by truthful, uncompromising stories about people on the fringe of society. Silent Partner is no exception. When I read the play, four years ago, I knew I would return to it some day. Daniel's words and characters stuck with me, he spoke of a dark, sad world with great humanity. I also laughed a lot.

Silent Partner is a classic two hander. David Field and Syd Brisbane had to get under your skin, hibernate, then peel away the tissues, for the film to work. I know their talents will be celebrated.

Silent Partner is unorthodox on many levels and I approached the filmmaking similarly. With a very small crew, I captured the lives of two drunks racing a greyhound, in an almost documentary method. My philosophy was that we were privileged to be allowed to film the lives of John and Bill. I kept the story secret from the crew and liberated the cast. This environment enriched the spontaneity of performance and gave us all a sense of freedom.

Daniel Keene is one of Australia's best contemporary writers. I'm honoured to bring his work to the big screen. I didn't want to compromise Silent Partner. The challenge was to maintain the essence and style of the work and make it happen on film.

Everyone has been screwed by an Alex Silver. I have met Silver. He gave me hope as well, then stole my dream.

Alkinos Tsilimidos

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