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AFI research collection
Title Beneath Clouds
Released 2002
Production Year 2002
Director Ivan Sen
Comments Beneath Clouds is a semi autobiographical film about the director, Ivan Sen, and his life growing up and coming to terms with his mixed heritage.

The film opens with a wide landscape shot and closes in on two girls at a bus stop across the road from a milk bar, where Aboriginal youths hang around. Ty tells Lena that she is pregnant, and Lena replies angrily, that she 'will never get out of the shithole.'

Lena then arrives home and we are introduced to her troubled household life. Her younger brother has just been taken out the door by the police, most likely for shoplifting cigarettes. Her mother sits at the table with a number of longneck beers having been finished, she is smoking with her appearance very dishevelled. Her stepfather is sitting in front of the television watching horse racing, not doing anything and Lena calls them disgraceful. Lena retreats to her room, where we see how much she longs for her Irish father (she has Irish art in her room and a photo album that includes letters from her biological father sent from his work in the city). We then see her on a bus leaving town.

After this scene we are introduced to Vaughn, who is an inmate in a juvenile detention centre. He is cutting at trees along with a few other 'white' boys while a policeman sits near them and throws pathetic insults at Vaughn and the others. Here we see how much anger Vaughn has towards 'white boys' as he becomes irritated and wants to start a fight. Her sister then comes to visit telling Vaughn she is pregnant, and that their mother is dying. The next scene, Vaughn is in his room with Jim, a younger inmate who questions Vaughn and the way he never talks about his family,"I haven't got any" he replies. But when the lights are out we see that Vaughn keeps a photo of his family, and he has dreams to beat the odds over his skin colour and achieve something. He then escapes by jumping on the back of a dairy truck.

The next scene jumps back to Lena's journey- her bus has made a stop at a small cafe, where she buys a sausage, cup of tea and 2 chocolate bars. Unfortunately the food makes her sick and she just misses her bus which has taken off without her. Frustrated she then goes to sit down at the bus stop, fiddles with the few coins she has left, when the dairy truck that Vaughn is on pulls up. The two meet for the first time and Vaughn asks where Sydney is, and begins walking. Lena follows.

Along the road, Vaughn and Lena see and experience many things, particularly the way they are both treated by others. At first Lena puts her hand out for a lift, and almost gets one until Vaughn follows and is refused. The next car that drives past is a relative of Vaughn's and together they take the lift. At first it is all okay until the driver hits the girl in the back because her baby won't stop crying. Lena can't accept this and asks him to pull over and starts walking again. The next car, is two white men. At first Lena takes a look at them and makes a judgement not to go with them. They begin to heckle her and eventually try to kidnap her, but Vaughn comes and fights them off. They both then continue to walk until they see a corn field, where Vaughn encourages Lena to steal some corn to eat. The farmer then finds them and they begin to run off. The farmer yells out 'Get out of her you black bastard!' which enrages Vaughn who yells, "this ain't you land, you stole this f**kin' land and don't you f**kin' forget it you f**kin' prick!'

After this they continue to walk and Lena asks Vaughn what he was doing yelling at the farmer saying that 'you always have a choice'. They then find an abandoned church to retreat in for the night.

The next morning they arrive in a town where there is a pub. Lena is welcomed in but Vaughn feels out of place and almost throws a rock at a car window. Lena stops him and as soon as they get walking again an older man gives them both a lift, which gives Vaughn a sense of hope that not everyone is against him.

The old man takes them as far as he can, and Lena and Vaughn catch a lift with two Indigenous men who have drugs in their car. Eventually they get pulled over, and the driver hits the policeman. A full fight breaks out, where the policemen start beating them including Vaughn, with a stick. Vaughn is knocked to the ground with his head bloodied, but he gets up and hits the policeman. The car then takes off and Vaughn asks to be dropped home.

When he gets home he enters his house- the fish tank is still on as is the tv. He goes to his mothers room, where the bed is stained with blood, and an oxygen tank is disconnected. Vaughn realizes he was too late. Lena touches his shoulder to be reassuring but Vaughn dismisses her and tells her not to touch him. Lena then leaves for the train station.

Vaughn shortly walks out, sees a police car coming, and starts running. He ends up at the train station and sees Lena just before she leaves, and they hug. Lena leaves with Vaughn looking into the carriage she is in, crying. The film ends unresolved.

(Tina Ky)

Synopsis Beneath Clouds (2002) by Ivan Sen is a feature film that journeys along two teenagers, Vaughn and Lena who are on a quest to find their Identity. Vaughn is an Indigenous teenager who is currently in a minimum security detention centre, where he cuts at trees with other deliquents, both Indigenous and white. He often finds himself in a lot of trouble as he is protective of his heritage, yet he is very angry with the world because he sees his heritage as a disadvantage. He comes from a broken family where he was neglected, he does not know his father and his mother is currently dying. Lena leads a similar life, however she is half Irish and half Indigenous but gets away with disguising her Indigenous heritage due to her fair skin. She lives with her alcoholic mother and her stepfather who is much the same. Her biological father lives in Sydney, and after her home life becomes too much to deal with she goes on a hitch hike to Sydney, which is where she meets Vaughn. To Lena, Vaughn represents the life she is running away from. To Vaughn, Lena embodies the society that has rejected him. As they hitchhike together, they begin to learn new things about each other, which wipes away all the preconcieved notions that they both had. (Tina Ky)
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