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Australia, 1998 (MIFF 1998, Australian Showcase)

Director: John Ruane

The Dead Letter Office: a limbo for lost mail and lost souls. Having been abandoned by her father as a child, Alice (Miranda Otto) continued to write him letters, not realising that he never received them. Seemingly unemployable, she eventually takes a job with the Dead Letter Office, convinced that she can use her work to fulfil her romantic notions of a reunion with her father. The boss, Frank (George DelHoyo), is a Chilean refugee whose presence inspires magical realism in both the office and the film. Downsized and facing cut-backs, the mail room steadily grows darker and the voices of dead letters haunt the sleepy staff. Eventually Alice tracks down her father - a small role for Miranda Otto's real father, Barry, but one of the most touching in the film - but the result is nothing like she anticipated.

Director John Ruane has skilfully balanced sentiment, humour and magical joy. Small, incidental scenes with broader significance underlie the beauty of Dead Letter Office, most notably when Alice intrudes on Frank spontaneously practising dance steps beneath a towering stack of dead letters. Miranda Otto delivers a seamless performance developing the character, the lonely yet endearing Alice, to full potential.

"All my films have been about characters who are losers, but Dead Letter Office is such a different film for me. It's about someone (Frank) from another society who can't face the past because it's full of pain; and Alice, who's reaching into the past to find who she is today." - John Ruane

George DelHoyo is a guest of the Festival.

John Ruane began his career with Queensland, a film which collected the 1976 AFI Award for Best Short Fiction. In 1980 Ruane earned another AFI Award for Blood Money and 1985 saw further AFI recognition for Feathers (1987 Best Short Fiction). Ruane is probably best known for his features Death in Brunswick (1991) and That Eye the Sky (MIFF 1995).

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