Replay - a reverie

by Margaret Haselgrove


A film by Margaret Haselgrove
16mm, 6 minutes, 1998

This piece was written by the filmmaker in 2001, and this is the first time it is published. (ed. Bill Mousoulis)

The photograph in my hand elicits an intense feeling of longing. Is it a man in the photograph, or a woman? I hold its gaze, captivated by its petrified uncertainty. In return it holds me unsure, oscillating. The power of photography. I watch. I think.


An audiotape arrives in the post. I long to see her, but I only hear her. She is in a mist-shrouded, winter park on the other side of the world. The spindle turns….“There is a man walking towards me……..”  Trepidation. Voice impels action.


A seven-year journey begins, an exploration on film of uncanny feelings.



Only the delicious sensuality of light projected through frames of celluloid in the dark can give tangibility to my abstract ideas, somewhere between dreams and reality.  Scopophilic desire propelled by ambivalent sexual fantasies of shifting transmutable sexual identities, reports a theorist. Shifting mutable sexual identity in real life, say I.


Fetishize the image until you can almost count the grains. Texture you want to touch. Fixate on ritualised repetition. Investigate. An abstract, cold performance of a performance. Thumb your nose at culmination, or that horrible word, ‘closure’. Fragment. Fragment.


Reference points? Maya Deren? The mesmerizing beauty of Marlene Dietrich constructed by Joseph Von Sternberg? Not really.



But film is on its last legs. In memoriam. Grief, panic. Something important and unique is slipping away. “Use video.” It’s not the same. Can’t, won’t.


They don’t understand the film but they know my reputation. “A serious professional, plenty of experience, high standards. Risky project.” A small grant. The smallest film I’ve ever made. Not the career path they had in mind.


Replay confuses their expectations of entertainment, confuses their expectations of me, encourages speculation, hard to pin down. “She’s gone mad”. “We need product to feed the masses”. “Have nothing to do with her”.


Keep thinking, keep working, molding, changing. Don’t stop. Trust your hunch. That’s independence.

Keep thinking, keep working, molding, changing. Don’t stop. Trust your hunch. That’s independence.



Have to find serious money somewhere. “This film could be bad taste”, says a funding assessor. Funding denied. “Incoherent”, says another. Funding denied. “Alienatingly obtuse”, says another. Funding denied.


A fellow filmmaker says, “Never invest your own money in a film”. I nod agreement. I should give up. I plough on.


The cinematographer becomes my eyes, revels in my independence, freed to breathe soul into pictures. Professional dancers give physical strength to the film’s aesthetic heart; the compelling sight of the androgynous body. A Sydney actor is in town. Her agent says she has agreed to do the voice for a small fee. “Who knows, these little films sometimes hit the headlines”, says he. No comment, think I.


Replay is in post-production, mastered as one continuous optical effect frame-by-frame. Click, click, click. Every frame has meaning, every effect a purpose. Trust the lab technician. He listens, understands, is knowledgeable. He admires audacious independence. He’ll get it right in the end.


It comes together, infused with the highest possible production values for the money. Haunting, black and white images driven by Ryuichi Sakamoto’s music.


My life’s savings are on the screen. It’s not a viable object for returns in the marketplace. But I have created poetry. No regrets. I am an independent artist.



Independent or not, an artist needs to be acknowledged. Faith and tenacity are not enough. This is not only about stretching my way of seeing the world, but challenging other people’s too. They won’t come to me, so I must find them.


Distribute the film yourself. No multinational companies to tip my hat to for this project. Not even television executives to contend with, no matter how culturally independent they are. This film was made to be experienced in the cinema and that is where it belongs. That’s independence.


Replay sinks without trace in Australia. No Australian audiences for this ‘little’ film. No “distinctly Australian stories” here. Despair.


The fax machine is pumping. Joy. At last. Replay takes flight. Paris, Montreal, San Francisco, Bologna, and back to Toronto. My independent spirit flies with it as I sit in my office and watch the clouds float past the window. Now it tours the United States. London, on the same session as Isaac Julien. I wish I could be there. “No, you can’t go with your film to a festival.” Funding denied.


That’s independence.


Post-script (August 2021): I don’t have anything further to add about the film, except that it was propelled by seeing a couple of photographs at the time; one by Australian photographer, Pat Brassington and the other by French photographer, Dolores Marat. I no longer have a reference for the photographs. It was such a long time ago and my head is now in other films. I have an eclectic interest in the films I watch, and the films I want to make. Replay represents a fleeting moment in my life, an itch in the corner of my eye that needed, at the time, to be scratched. - Margaret Haselgrove

Screenings of Replay:
  • Inside Out Film Festival, Toronto, Canada 1999
  • Antimatter Festival of Underground Short Film and Video, Victoria, Canada 1999
  • Image&nation Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Montreal, Canada 1999
  • Feast Gay & Lesbian Festival, Mercury Cinema, Adelaide 1999
  • "Captured" - AFI Experimental Cinema Season, Media Resource Centre, Adelaide 1999
  • London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, 2000
  • Paris Lesbian Film Festival, 2000
  • Immaginaria International Lesbian Film Festival, Bologna, Italy 2001
  • MadCat Women's International Film Festival, San Francisco, 2000 & MadCat Touring Program 2000 (U.S.A & Canada) including: Chicago Art Institute; University of Rhode Island; C.U.N.Y. Brooklyn, New York; Intermedia Arts, Minneapolis; Little Theatre, Seattle, Washington; Mills College, Oakland; Mini Cine, Shreveport, Louisiana; San Francisco State University; Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, New York; Smith College, Northampton; York University, Toronto, Canada

Margaret Haselgrove is an Adelaide-based writer/director and producer since the 1980s. Independent films include the partly-dramatized feature documentary Patterns (1986), and self-funded experimental film Replay (1998). Also several political and community docos & dramas while resident filmmaker at Co Media (community media production house) in the late ‘80s to early ‘90s. Currently (2021) developing an arthouse feature.

Published August 9, 2021. © Margaret Haselgrove 2001 / 2021..