by Grace Eyre

Annelise Hickey's short film ‘Hafekasi’ was my favourite job this year, and I almost didn't get it. I have worked with Annelise several times, including on some ASE Ellie-nominated work, and we've always been great collaborators. However, I’d just returned from maternity leave and I’d been a little bit slow to tell my contacts I was back at work. So, Annelise was naturally under the impression that I was still mumming full-time.

Fortunately, at the time that she was looking for an Editor, she was working with another director-friend of mine, Stevie Cruz-Martin, who helped set the record straight! Annelise sent me the script, and I fell in love.

‘Hafekasi’ is an intimate, sincere, and at times funny piece of work that tackles identity through the lens of 10-year-old Mona, a half-Tongan girl raised by her white mum. It's impressive that, in her first time writing a narrative short, Annelise managed to be so concise while also conveying the breadth of the lives lived around the film, as well as the subtle shifts in self-perception that occur in adolescence.

Veteran actor Laura Gordon and first-timer Izabelle Tokava were absolute beauties on screen, giving these fresh natural moments that really thrill me as an Editor. I wanted to let those moments guide me through the whole film. And while I don't believe in bending an entire scene into a pretzel just to showcase one great take, in this case I didn't have to. The coverage was great, and Matthew Chuang's cinematography gave me the freedom to be a bit playful without breaking his style.

Mona’s mum is loving, and the two of them are as close as one might expect from a single mother and only child. But sometimes, without warning, they find themselves on parallel tracks, unable to connect. As a white woman, Mona’s mum misses the cues that Mona catches. To her, Mona’s behaviour is sometimes puzzling and unprovoked. But while she might not understand the experience of living as a person of colour, she does understand her daughter - when to soothe, when to cheer, when to leave alone. Mona is fortified by her mum’s love as she ventures out, even to places her mum can’t follow. ‘Hafekasi’ is a beautiful story and I encourage everyone to see it if they can.

The theme of motherhood resonated deeply with me, even though I’m fresh to the game. I cut much of the film bouncing Archie on my knee. I’m grateful to Annelise for her patience and kindness as we weathered a gastro outbreak at the daycare, and jumped on calls during naps. May every job be so memorable!

(At the 2023 Melbourne International Film Festival ''Hafekasi' director Annelise Hickey won the Award for Emerging Australian Filmmaker.)

(eNews #117 - August 2023)