Molokai: The Story of Father Damien - screener

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Molokai: The Story of Father Damien

Film by Paul Cox

Year: 1998, 120 mins
Code: PCO-Molokai
ISBN: 978-1-921882-89-0

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Paul Cox’s ambitious portrait, the true story of a 19th century priest who volunteered to go to the island of Molokai, to console and care for the lepers.

In the 1800s, leprosy has become such a scourge in Hawaii that Prime Minister Gibson (Sam Neill) banishes the afflicted to the island of Molokai. When Bishop Maigret (Leo McKern) and Father Fouesnel (Derek Jacobi) request a priest for these lost souls, Father Damien (David Wenham) volunteers.

Father Damien is in for a rude awakening when he arrives on Molokai: He imagined he'd be consoling the afflicted, not dealing with rampant lawlessness and zero medical care. After fixing up a chapel, he shutters a whore house and reopens it as an infirmary. During years of tending his flock, Father Damien risks his own health by reaching out to the infected and inevitably contracts leprosy himself.
Although Princess Liliuokalani (Kate Ceberano) bravely visits Molokai with humanitarian intentions, the government refuses to lavish resources on this no man’s land. So Father Damien defies church rules and improves conditions for the lepers by speaking out in the foreign press through his brother.
In the wake of the resulting international outcry, philanthropists donate money and new volunteers like Brother Dutton (Tom Wilkinson) join the crusade. Father Damien has less luck securing the services of a doctor; the only one he persuades to come to Molokai soon flees, unable to cope with the chaos and crush of needy patients. While politicians and religious leaders quibble over bureaucratic matters, Father Damien quietly continues his mission, even as he suffers the advanced stages of the disease.
By the time of his death, he's seen his dream come true. Nursing nuns join his hospital, and his legacy of diligent care giving seems secure.

Director: Paul Cox
Producer: Tarsicius Vanhuysse, Grietje Lammertyn
Writer: John Briley
: Nino Gaetano Martinetti

Cast: David Wenham, Kate Ceberano, Jan Decleir, Sam Neill, Peter O’Toole, Derek Jacobi

Born in Holland and settled in Melbourne since the mid-‘60s, Paul Cox is an auteur of international acclaim, having received numerous international awards.  He is one of the most prolific makers of films in Australia, with numerous features, shorts and documentaries to his name. He is the recipient of many special tributes and retrospectives at film festivals across the world, including a major retrospective at the Lincoln Centre in New York in 1992.

His films of the early and mid ‘80s – Lonely Hearts (1981), Man of Flowers (1983), and My First Wife (1984) – were highly acclaimed both locally and internationally. 
Man of Flowers premiered in Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival in 1984, and went on to win Best Film at the 1984 Valladolid Film Festival as well as Best Foreign Film at the 1991 Warsaw Film Festival.
Cactus premiered in Director's Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival in 1986 and Vincent won the Jury Prize at the 1988 Istanbul International Filmdays.
A Woman's Tale won the Grand Prix at the 1992 International Flanders Film Festival in Ghent and Exile screened in competition at the 1994 Berlin International Film Festival.

More recently, Cox's highly acclaimed feature Innocence (2000) won massive audience and critical acclaim, including Best Film and the People's Choice Award at the 2000 Montreal World Film Festival; and 5 Australian IF awards including Best Film, Independent Filmmaker of the Year for Paul Cox, and Best Actress for Julia Blake.

Cox’s career continues currently, with features such as Human Touch (2004) and Salvation (2008).

Quoting IMDb:  This is an unusual film in our present fashion for films to be about a "day in the life" of insignificant people doing insignificant (usually antisocial) things. This is a story told with great compassion and notable expertise. The cast is remarkable for the number of "stars" playing minor roles. Paul Cox's films leave you with a greater understanding of the human spirit and this was is one of his best.

Paul Cox is one of the most important filmmakers to come out of Australia ... he is a filmmaker of incredible energy, persistence and vision - all qualities which are crucial to survive as a filmmaker. He is also uncompromising in fulfilling his vision which is almost always achieved with comparatively small budgets of about $1 million. As a director, he has an ongoing screen relationship with many of Australia's greatest actors. The themes in his films - isolation, faith, hope, love, survival - remain the same and reoccur over and over, but above all else his films are about human frailty ...

Philip Tyndall, "Paul Cox - Filmmaker", Senses of Cinema



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