‘Fragments’ is the perfect title for this intimate and moving portrait of the reluctant national treasure Michael Leunig, whose work is familiar to anyone who has picked up a newspaper in the past 40 years. Leunig’s reluctance extends to being filmed, having the camera pounce on him, meaning the filmmakers capture him only in fragments, which are weaved in with fragments of archival footage, hundreds of his cartoons and artworks, family photos, talking heads such as Philip Adams and, piercingly, recreations of scenes from his life as a contemplative, already wistful, boy, running and playing with one of a series of dogs, revelling in nature, responding joyfully in the classroom to a teacher who seems to be the one person who understood him, and a home life that included some closeness and connection but which eventually went unaccountably wrong. The family became markedly fragmented. He doesn’t know where his parents are buried. His siblings don’t feature. The dislocation continued into his own twice-married life: “I once had a small family,” he whispers at one point, his voice cracking – heartbreakingly, as we learn that only one member is willing to be interviewed, a grown up son. A man of profound emotion, Leunig is also distressed by memories of visiting sites of Aboriginal ceremony and art, where for 40,000 years young men stroked a rock wall, leaving a timeless legacy – only for it to suddenly stop as cultural practice was disrupted by European intervention. He is shattered by the thought of it. Similarly, his life has been marked by death: early experiences of working in a meatworks, seeing accidents, bodies, drownings. He is haunted by it, and his art provides the antidote. Creativity – creation – provides solace and meaning. The teacher liberates the young Leunig by giving him an identity – “you are a cartoonist” – but he has gone on to be so much more: artist, provocateur, philosopher and comforter, spiritual guide.
Palace Byron Bay offers the full entertainment experience, showcasing a mix of quality blockbusters, international and Australian art-house films as well as renowned film festivals. Their nine cinemas are fully licensed so you can take advantage of the curated drinks menu, including local Byron shire craft beers, premium wines and classic cocktails.