Lynette Wallworth
2014 | 73 minutes | Australia
US Premiere | Director in Attendance

An hour south of Sydney in the industrial town of Port Kembla, the local community center embarks on a noble and atypical quest: to serve the townspeople with a not-for-profit funeral service. Disillusioned by costly and impersonal funerals that don’t always embrace the wishes of grieving families, the vision was to bring the process of honoring the dead back to the community level. Flowers are hand-picked, coffins are hand-painted, and just as plans begin to proceed, the funeral home is unexpectedly confronted with the illness of one of their own. Featuring music from Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, Tender is a funny, beautiful, and life-affirming film that delves into the rituals of death with heartbreaking delicacy. Director Lynette Wallworth returns to the museum after her 2011 premiere of Corals: Rekindling Venus in which she transformed the Hayden Planetarium into an immersive undersea environment.

Preceded by the Mead Mixer, a daily happy hour in Cafe on One from 6-7:30 pm

Co-presented by the Australian Consulate-General


Plays with Vultures of Tibet

Past Forward, My Perspective

"In many cultures the tradition of caring for the dead has followed the same ritual path for generations. There must be great comfort in knowing what to do, the rituals one keeps in order to pass though this painful rite of passage with dignity, with fullness of understanding and through ritual, with depth of experience. In mainstream Australia, end of life has become more and more out-sourced to a business for hire. We hand over our loved ones to a Funeral Director who takes the body from our home, holds it in their morgue, manages the funeral and all aspects of the disposal of the body for us. We attend the funeral of a loved one, possibly without seeing the dead for our selves, and very likely not touching them. This removal, our removal, from a central moment of human existence is what the community in Tender are railing against. They want to do the work of caring for their own dead, not hand that job over to strangers. In Tender we see a community trying to create connection through participation. They hope to create new traditions for themselves but they know they are really just reaching back to the past and pulling into the present something that was lost because there seemed a better way to go. Whilst I imagine much was achieved in the care for the dead when Funeral Directors became professionalised, some essential things were lost.  For me there is a balance we could strike between what is done for us and what we decide is ours to do. For example the tradition of washing the body of the deceased would at one time only have been done by family , now it rarely is. My hope is that Tender provides new images for old practices so that some of what we have lost might be re-invigorated through the film. In that way, through Tender, I am using contemporary technologies to re-invigorate end of life traditions."

- Lynette Wallworth | Director, Tender