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Cordelia Swann
Light and dark are central to Desert Rose (1996), shot in black and white.

A voice-over relates the stories of people dying from radiation built up through the use of the desert as a nuclear test site in the 1950s, when the whole place became a tourist attraction, with people being bussed in to gamble in the casinos and look at the explosions. Children would shake the 'grey snow' of the nuclear dust off the oleander blooms and the lights of Vegas would shimmer and sparkle. The film interweaves the evocative, ancient desert landscape and its bleaker, modern realities with the myth-invoking kitsch and spectacle of Las Vegas to create what Swann calls an ''emotional architecture'' of the epic and the personal.

The film-maker's insistence, especially in her later work, to accentuate place and context, is a constant reminder that events - and other narrative triggers - have a grounding in specific contexts and what may be conveniently called 'the real'. However, it is the potential of the 'ordinary' to become 'extraordinary' through a combination of existing narratives and subjective investment which constantly informs Swann's practice and exemplified at its best in Desert Rose.

Still from Desert Rose by Cordelia Swann, 1996
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