Tracy helps tell Kate Kelly's unique story

IN SIGHT: Documentary filmmaker Tracy Sorensen is excited more people will hear the tale of Kate Kelly in her documentary Songs For Kate. Photo: STEVE WOODHALL

IN SIGHT: Documentary filmmaker Tracy Sorensen is excited more people will hear the tale of Kate Kelly in her documentary Songs For Kate. Photo: STEVE WOODHALL

BATHURST documentary director Tracy Sorensen says she is excited by the possibilities now that her first film has been picked up by Canberra- based Ronin Films.

Songs For Kate follows Forbes woman Merrill Findlay as she tells the story of the last days of Kate Kelly, sister of bushranger Ned Kelly.

Kate’s body was dragged from the Forbes lagoon in 1898 when she was just 36 years old. During the 50-minute documentary, viewers follow Ms Findlay as she produces a chamber opera to tell the tale.

Kate’s story could have almost been missed, according to Ms Sorensen, who said the opera was based on historical evidence discovered in an old copy of the Forbes And Parkes Gazette.

The story revealed Kate’s husband, William ‘Bricky’ Foster, had been charged five pounds, four shillings and 10 pence to escape a three-month jail stint, for what would today be considered domestic violence.

“For those days it would have been a hefty fine,” Ms Sorensen said.

Ms Findlay collaborated with composer Ross Carey to produce the chamber opera, called The Kate Kelly Song Cycle.

The documentary was a long time coming, according to Ms Sorensen, who started filming around the opera’s staging at the Kalari-Lachlan River Arts Festival in Forbes in 2011.

“Merrill spent quite a lot of time in the library researching a lot from that era,” she said. “My documentary was to follow Merrill as she undertook the research.

“It’s a really interesting story because Forbes has mainly been involved with [bushranger] Ben Hall ... we mainly hear from the male perspective.”

Ms Sorensen said Ronin Films will promote Songs For Kate to schools, libraries and universities across the country.

Throughout filming, Ms Sorensen had her own battle: she discovered she had the rogue cancer gene BRCA1.

With a family history of cancer, Ms Sorensen decided to have her ovaries and breasts removed as a cancer prevention method.

“It’s wonderful to have something to think about rather than how vile you feel,” she said. “I really wanted to finish it [the film] and, despite everything, pull it off.”

Songs For Kate is available for purchase through Ronin Films at www.roninfilms.com.au.

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