Article - Cinema of True Poison

by Paul Andrew

If Craig Boreham’s indie film career has a base that it stands upon, then without doubt it is the small but potent, Queercore scene that emerged from the fierce conflagration that was the Brisbane Punk and Post Punk scene spanning the late 1970’s into the early 1990’s.

Boreham relocated to Sydney in 1994 and was a young film student by the time New Queer Cinema captured a generation’s gaze. He too embraced this collective enthusiasm for angry, occasionally saturnine, "lo-fi- DIY filmmaking". Directors including Greg Araki, Derek Jarman, Todd Haynes, Sadie Benning and Australian's Stephen Cummins and Tony Ayres, unleashed an unprecedented wave of transformational, alchemical energy and with it, a new cinematic order - Fuck You Hollywood- Indie Cinema is a noble path too.

While studying for a Media degree at the University of Technology Sydney Boreham examined early precursors to New Queer, Directors like Kenneth Anger, Jack Smith, Andy Warhol, John Waters. It was during this time he produced his first major short, Blow (1995) a fantasy animation that signifies a major debut into 16mm filmmaking.

It’s a story which unfolds as a Persophone-like journey. A youth called into a subterranean world, in search for identity, for love, for freedom, for passion. Along the way he finds himself lost in a urinal seeking anonymous sex. His quest takes him faraway to a mystical place beyond the ordinary world into the realm of cosmos, the mythic. It is a journey deep within, a distillation of soul subtly transformed by the outer reaches of the underworld.

Blow sets the stage for Boreham’s sustained interest in the mythic archetypal world. In time and through intensive collaborations, this myth telling thread matures, to borrow an alchemical metaphor, it blackens. In Everything Nice (2006), Stray (2007) and Love Bite (2008) Boreham examines his own deep childhood memories. Recounting liminal moments when people transit fear, leaving behind outmoded persona's, outlived masks as the psyche is slowly forged.


Seamen (1997) is a short multi-narrative. It has an unmistakable glint of Kenneth Anger, the stylised mis-en-scene, saturated colours, flagrant homoeroticism and surreal dream-like images. Its confessional narrative told, largely by an unreliable narrator- a sexually uncertain taxi driver- recounting a childhood memory. As a boy shopping with his mother, he fantasised about sailors he observed along Sydney harbourside streets. Sailors whose vast pent up sexual energy after many months at sea seemed to permeate an entire city, a boy’s awe. He imagined these men, adrift like Odysseus, their oceanic feelings, their deep yearning for wild and ceremonious touch.

In another thread, a young man recieves therapy. His quest for identity is faraway too, beyond the hypocritical strictures, antiquated family morals into the poisonous world of heroine. In the third thread, a young man is seduced by an older man, so enamoured with the youth, that he forces sexual favours from him through guilt, subterfuge.

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In films, And Everything Nice (2006), Stray(2007) and Love Bite (2008),Boreham is fascinated with the atmosphere surrounding initiations or rites of passage at the cusp of early adulthood. As sexuality awakens, outer life becomes complex, a capricious psyche longs for revelation. Stray is a collaboration between Boreham, colleague Dean Francis and homeless youth from Sydney’s Twenty Ten, a re-visioning of an Aesop fable; City Mouse, Country Mouse. Set in Sydney’s inner reaches of gender bending, drag, drugs and shiny darkness where a wide-eyed boy’s first love unfolds.

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In Love Bite the anxiety surrounding this threshold is portrayed with pitch black humour. At a tender pregnant moment two boys stumble and fall as a kiss wells up. Love sours to schlock horror vampire spoof as one youth faces the impulse with knowingness, the other youth lashes out in anger, an opprobrium marked by ignorance, a fear of crossing over.

And Everything Nice, a young schoolgirl hides in a toilet, eavesdropping on schoolmates. She learns of their after hours world, boyfriends mainly. She follows one girl and discovers that the student’s secret world is a ruse, no boyfriend. She tracks the girl, who wanders aimlessly, peripatetically throughout games arcades, to fountains, to back streets of Sydney. Eventually they meet face to face. Unlike the threshold of male reckoning in Love Bite, it is not fury or monsters emanating from within, it is empathy, deep understanding in their eyes, in body language.


Booth is a stand alone work, Boreham’s most erotic short. A male peep show performer, gyrating, snaking wantonly like a poison serpent, and lurking beyond in a coin operated booth masking an invisible stranger. The threshold between them a small gap, a glory hole where bodies, fingers, fluids melt as one. Booth is a parody on the gay porno flick. Like porn, it’s denouement is a money shot, perhaps a metaphor for an age in which male to male desire, the homoerotic gaze is commodified, where the only exchanges permitted, valued and celebrated between men are pornographic, where fantasy remains invisible, where grace, imagination and the deep wounds of the psyche remain untouched.

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Boreham himself likes to describe Transient (2005) as “an end of love story” . Set in two countries Vietnam and Australia, it portrays two men thrown together into paradise. Transient is also a tale of distillation, a release from attachment. Persona's dropped in paradise, in turn they face the impermanence of romantic love as they return home, to start a life together. It is in this ordinary world they have an opportunity to transform corporeal love into soul love.

Poisoned by Sydney’s seductive inner city gay scene, their relationship flounders. Transient echoes with the wisdom of classic legends like Tristan and Iseult transformative poison resides deep within.

Awards and Commendations

While Boreham has won a slew of prizes and awards for his work, it is the Teddy Award nomination at the 2005 Berlin Film Festival for Transient that he counts as a “personal best” commendation. Throughout his career, Boreham has forged strong, continuing collaborations. Alongside, Partner, collaborator and muse Phoenix Leonard, Producers, Ann Marie Bell and Genevieve Derwent, Cinematographer Bonnie Elliott, Sound designer, Pete Goodwin, Editor, Adrian Rostirolla and Director peers Dean Francis and Peta Jane Lenehan, comprising what Boreham regards as his “ film-making family”.

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