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Desert Rose

Cordelia Swann
26 min Black & White 16mm/Betacam

Desert Rose

"For part of my childhood, to recuperate from tuberculosis, I was taken to live in the idyllic mountains of northern Nevada, where the occasional nuclear cloud drifted north from the Test Site, sixty miles from the city of Las Vegas." - C.S.

"While filming OUT WEST we paused briefly to film the Blue Angel motel in Las Vegas. Two years later, while filming Las Vegas and the surrounding desert, the reverberations of the fall-out left by the nuclear tests of the 50s became chillingly evident - especially as I then realised that as a child I had in all probability been a Down Winder myself." - C.S.

In DESERT ROSE we are taken from the cottonwoods, and deserts of southern Nevada to a contemporary and 1950s vision of the casinos, hotels and wedding chapels of Las Vegas, where a seamy underside is revealed, far more sinister and tragic than mere glitter, vice or gambling.

"Cordelia Swann's 'Desert Rose', 1996, is a film about Las Vegas. It opens with familiar travelogue footage of the city - glittering casinos, hotels and neons. It is beautiful in the subjective, sensual tradition of independent film. But gradually the increasingly abstract patterns of light take on a more sinister aspect as a voice-over describes the hidden secrets of the town: nuclear tests in the 50s caused widespread damage to land, livestock, and individuals - including John Wayne who happened to be filming in the desert. The integration of image and narrative was a slow and measured process and as my preconceived readings of the glitter and glitz of the city dissolved, I realised that my own father had been a military observer of the Nevada nuclear teats and that, like Cordelia Swann, my own life may have been touched by the fall-out." - Katherine Elwes 'Videoscan: Video History- Who needs it?' in Art Monthly, May 1996.

Narration Suzanne Parke
Camera/Producer/Edit Cordelia Swann/Marek Budzynski
Sound Design Stuart Jones

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