Pictures of Susan

“The rush is to get out there and see Susan really enjoy other people enjoying her drawings. That’s the drive for me.” — Petita Cole (sister)

Director: Dan Salmon
Year: 2012
Country: New Zealand
Running time: 86 mins

Producers: Dan Salmon, Tash Christie
Photography: Ben Freedman
Editor: Cushla Dillon
Sound: Nick Treacy, Eugene Arts
Music: David Long

With: Susan Te Kahurangi King, Dawn King, Petita Cole, Rachel King, Stephen King, Bernard King, Wendy Williamson, Sam King, Shannon King, Stuart Shepherd, Peter Fay

World Premiere

Auckland ‘outsider artist’ Susan King stopped talking in 1955 when she was four years old and has said next to nothing since. Her grandmother recognised the little girl’s talent for drawing and kept her supplied with coloured pencils and paper. For 20 years Susan described her world in thousands of drawings, pages filled with delight, playfulness, curiosity and terror. Then she stopped. Her family sadly packed her pictures into boxes and stored them under beds and in the attic. There were 20 years of silence before she drew again. Of late, Susan’s art brut has been discovered by the dealer world. A 2009 show in Sydney garnered further, international demand, and compounded an ethical quandary for the family who can only guess at the artist’s wishes. Dan Salmon began filming them all in 2008 and his fascinating, thoughtful film performs its authorised role in their ‘outing’ with sensitivity and admiration. — BG

“In 2008, I began filming… Over the next three years something extraordinary has happened. Susan has gone from shut down and non-communicative to happy, smiling and engaged… But her late rebirth as an artist is no guarantee of a happily-ever-after story. Susan doesn’t talk and still lives with her mum. The family are desperate for her to enjoy the attention of the art world, but no gallery or institution will take on 10,000+ pictures, and the Kings refuse to sell or split the collection... Our families hold us up as well as hold us back, and Susan is happier, healthier, drawing again in the bosom of her  loving family. Maybe that’s enough for her? Unless she decides to tell us, we may never know.” — Dan Salmon

NZIFF STAFF PICK: Sharon Byrne, Natalie Gilberd, Robyn Harper, Taylor Sanders