A multi-cast reading of Almost Human, the feature film script developed in collaboration with Melbourne film maker Angelo Salamanca is now ready to go into early stages of pre-production.
Almost Human tells the story of the life of maverick émigré photographer, feminist pioneer and colourful personality, Maggie Diaz who arrived in Melbourne aboard the maiden voyage of The Royal Canberra in 1961. It was a one-way ticket, a divorce gift from her Australian husband and the last time she would ever see America. This ninety-minute production encompasses her life’s work and journey through key events, with the anchor of the production held in her vast collection of photographs which span 1950s Chicago to 1990s Melbourne. The story also encapsulates the 30-year friendship with her now curator, Gwendolen De Lacy, which led to the telling of the story. In the form of a slideshow set ‘in the now’, Diaz is asked about decisions she made – children given up for adoption, how her work saved her sanity and indeed her life and what she thought about living mostly hand to mouth as an artist on the edge of society.
Almost Human is a ‘warts and all’ tribute to a woman who walked both sides of the street and found her way of being in the world via a lens and in the man’s world of commercial photography. She pushed beyond the realms of what was thought possible for a woman of her time and despite the frailties of the body and the mind. By the end of her life, she had lost an eye, the capacity to walk and Alzheimer’s had ravaged her brain. Her oeuvre tells a story that is important to Melbourne and to the understanding of an émigré photographer who became stranded on a foreign shore, bringing a mystique and an outsider’s eye.
There’s a poetic symmetry to the script reading being presented at La Mama. In the 1990s, Diaz spent time as a resident photographer at La Mama – a deeply satisfying and happy time in her life. Her 80th birthday celebration took place at The Courthouse in 2005, now recorded as ‘I Don’t Do Sweet’.
The Diaz Collection is now housed in the State Library of Victoria and celebrated with over 2000 online scans available to the general public. Her work has also been collected by the National Gallery of Australia, National Library of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Monash Gallery of Art and many private collections.
This is the first phase of ‘Almost Human’ the movie – a project supported by La Mama and our audience whose ticket price helps us pay our professional cast. Audience members will also have the opportunity to purchase a raffle ticket to acquire their very own signed and framed ‘Champagne Lady’ an iconic Diaz image 13/25 and valued at over $2000 with all funds raised going towards production costs.