“Some people come here to learn how to drive. I come here to learn how not to drive.”
- Quote from the film
“Occupying a territory somewhere between faux essay film and reverie, Gabriel White’s Oracle Drive roves the well-mown desolation of the light-industrial urban fringe. Although the voice we hear on the soundtrack is distinctly Kiwi, it speaks with the casual expertise of an inter-planetary visitor, one seriously misled by his own rich stock of earthly classical studies. He marvels at the literal and metaphorical significance of signage and street names, Atlantis, Romulus and Remus, Isis, The Nile, The Tiber, Oracle Drive, Sexyland; you’ll find them all on the North Shore. Only cars inhabit this road-ribboned environment – and strange dancers who pass across the landscape with mysterious purpose, oblivious to its mundane uses. Meanwhile, elegant camerawork, an ominous music track and surprising visual effects collude to shift the flaneur’s provocation into something else again; there’s beauty and eerie immanence lurking in the guarded blandness of Albany.”
- from the New Zealand International Film Festival 2013 programme
“Smart and unpretentious, White ponders all kinds of things we might also have wondered about, but consigned to the dustbin of “whatever”.”
- NZ Listener
The Mysteries of Albany
“Is everything left to the imagination, or is nothing left to the imagination?” muses the protagonist of Gabriel White’s new film, as he claws his way up a grassy knoll towards a huge concrete bunker labelled sexyland.
At first sight, nothing could look less sexy: the windswept industrial wasteland, the brute force of the cyclopean walls … and yet, as we continue to watch this small, black-clad figure wander through the strange suburbs and subdivisions of Auckland’s North Shore, the essentially mystical nature of his quest comes more and more into focus.
There are the same images of ubiquitous traffic, tawdry signage, and twee, half-hearted, corporate ornamentation familiar to viewers of Gabriel’s previous cityscapes: Tongdo Fantasia, Aucklantis, The Unplanned Masterpiece. This time, however, a new element has entered the picture: the oracular.
This is, in a sense, if not a religious movie, at least a movie about faith. The strange, brightly clad dancers emerging from portaloos, the hands groping from culverts, the levitating cars and ghostly buses seem entirely in keeping with the network of streetnames he has discovered: Atlantis, Isis, Oak, Nile, Tempo Place – Oracle Drive itself.
I must have driven past some of these spaces a thousand times, and yet Gabriel’s camera has found details that almost make sense of the sheer weirdness of this globalised Edge City, this suburbanised Industrial Area from hell. It isn’t hell, says Gabriel – rather, a new type of purgatory: a testing-ground for the spirit.
As his car glides on, with the droning monotony of the “Drive, Drive, Drive, down Oracle Drive” song insinuating itself ever deeper into our neural pathways, I think we start to realise this is where we live. We’d better start taking Gabriel’s tree-alphabets and Honda pyramids more seriously – like his Phoenix Palm mobile-network towers, it won’t be long before they’re the only vestige of the numinous remaining to us.
“God created Arrakis to train the faithful,” say the desert Fremen in Frank Herbert’s Dune. The same, it is now apparent, must be said of the marshy fields and desert wastes of Albany’s Megacentre.
- Jack Ross
Oracle Drive. Filmed in 2012, North Shore Auckland / Length: 62 min / Director: Gabriel White / Producer: Amelia Harris / Post-production, art and effects: Markus Hofko / Music: Chris O’Connor / Oracle Drive Song: lyrics by Richard von Sturmer / Performers: Gabriel White, Richard von Sturmer, Alexa Wilson, Tessa Mitchell, Nicholas Butler, Karin Hofko, John Radford / Funded in part by Creative New Zealand, Media Arts, Quick Response. Premiered in July 2013 at the New Zealand International Film Festival.
Gabriel White (Dir.): email@example.com
Amelia Harris (Prod.): firstname.lastname@example.org
Oracle Drive at NZFF 2013 Facebook group: facebook.com/groups/409989019022934/
Link to other works
New Zealand Herald interview:
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