Solrun Hoaas was a great friend of Karen Foley and myself. We saw her throughout the time she lived in Australia and she joined us every year at Christmas for a couple of decades prior to her untimely death at a far too young age. At this year’s FCCA Awards the documentary prize presented by Michael Loebenstein, the NFSA CEO, was dedicated to Solrun and the FCCA program contained the following note.
The FCCA Award for best feature documentary is this year named in honor of Solrun Hoaas a determined independent whose work ranged across dramatic and documentary film-making, features and shorts, in a career spanning more than thirty years of dedicated work.
Born in Trondheim, Norway, Hoaas was one of four siblings of missionary parents who had been in China before World War II. The family returned to China after the war but the communist revolution again forced them to leave in 1949, this time for Hong Kong. A year later they moved to Kobe, Japan, where they lived throughout the 1950s and '60s.
Hoaas graduated from a Canadian academy in Kobe and she spent a year in the United States before enrolling at the University of Oslo, where she majored in social anthropology. She came to Australia in the early 1970s.
She began filming with a 16-millimetre camera in Okinawa in 1977 and graduated with a diploma in film from the Swinburne Institute of Technology in 1980. Her graduation film, In Search of the Japanese, a satiric study of Australian incomprehension of Japanese-Australian relations, was shown at the 1981 Melbourne Film Festival.
Later, with funds from Film Victoria and Andrew Pike of Ronin Films, Hoaas made the hour-long documentary that became Green Tea and Cherry Ripe, a touching film about six Japanese war brides. It was screened on SBS TV and sold widely abroad.
The following year she received funding for a script she had written for a dramatic feature about a Japanese war bride living in Melbourne in the 1950s. Aya starred Nicholas Eadie and the Japanese actress Eri Ishida, and was nominated for six AFI awards and screened at more than 30 international film festivals. Although Hoaas never got a chance to make another feature film, she continued to write distinctive scripts that were sympathetically received, but for various reasons failed to find commercial support.
She continued to receive invitations to visit Japan and Korea, and through her typical persistence, secured a visa to visit North Korea. She came away with Pyongyang Diaries (1997), one of the first films to provide a glimpse of life in the odd, secretive state. This was followed by another documentary about relations between North and South Korea, Rushing to Sunshine (2001).
From 2004, Solrun turned to handmade prints, experimenting with film images combined with copperplate etchings, and continued to develop feature film scripts with titles such as The Siren of Seoul, The Okinawan Daughter, The Watchmaker, and Fearless Tours.
Solrun’s printmaking featured in a number of group shows, and she had solo exhibitions at Gasworks art precinct, the Joshua McClelland Print Room, the Benalla Gallery, and the Albion Street Gallery in Sydney.
Solrun died in 2009. Her documentary films and her dramatic feature, Aya (1991) have recently been restored and reissued on DVD by Ronin Films .
(Notes derived from Solrun Hoaas’s obituary in The Age written by Gerry Carman)
Solrun’s Green Tea and Cherry Ripe, a wonderful documentary about Japanese war brides and their lives in post-WW2 Australia and a precursor to her feature film Aya, produced by Karen Foley, will have a rare screening at the Art Gallery of New South Wales on Wednesday April 29 at 3.00 pm and 8.00 pm and on Sunday 3 May at 3.00 pm> it screens as part of a double bill of classic Australian documentaries with Sharon Connolly's & Trevor Graham's Red Matildas. Through the lives of three women, May Pennefather, Audrey Blake and Joan Goodwin, Red Matildas explores the social and political conditions in Australia during the Great Depression. Massive unemployment, widespread malnutrition and growing militarism at home and abroad provoked many people to political activity. For these women, the Communist Party was one of the few avenues for agitation then available. The story of their stand against injustice is illustrated with archival film providing a dramatic 'grass roots’ perspective on the turmoil of the Great Depression.