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AUS­TRALIA Day is usu­ally a time for cel­e­bra­tion with fam­ily and friends, but it’s a dark day for the char­ac­ters of a new tele­movie. Fol­low­ing three sto­ries over an in­tense 12hour pe­riod on a swel­ter­ing Aus­tralia Day, the provoca­tive film was di­rected by Kriv Sten­ders and shot en­tirely in sub­ur­ban Bris­bane.

In the film’s open­ing scenes, in­dige­nous teen April (Miah Mad­den), young Chi­nese woman Lan (Jenny Wu) and Sami (Elias An­ton), an Ira­nian-Aus­tralian teen, are des­per­ate and on the run.

As each of their sto­ries un­fold, farmer Terry (Bryan Brown), in­dige­nous po­lice­woman (Shari Sebbens) and homi­cide de­tec­tive (Matthew Le Nevez) are also swept into a whirlpool of vi­o­lence, racism and re­sent­ment.

“I knew about the script a cou­ple of years be­fore I had it pre­sented to me, but at that stage I felt it was maybe a bit dark,” Brown says. “I passed on it but then Kriv was brought on to do it and he got in touch and said ‘Will you re-read it?’.

“Some of the prob­lems I thought it had be­fore didn’t seem to be there any­more. It’s an in­ter­est­ing story and I liked the fact that there were three strands and the strand I had was a two-han­der. I liked what each of the char­ac­ters was go­ing through.”

When view­ers first meet Brown’s char­ac­ter Terry, a Chi­nese woman fran­ti­cally waves down his ute. She can­not speak English and the con­fused Terry, af­ter ban­dag­ing up her cut foot, drops her at a lo­cal po­lice sta­tion so that he can deal with the fall­out from the bank­ruptcy of his farm. But their paths soon cross again in a very dra­matic turn of events.

“Sure he’s a farmer who’s dealt with some bad stuff but he was also a sol­dier in Viet­nam ... and sol­diers are there to help,” Brown says. “There is some­one in trou­ble and ba­si­cally that’s a thing that a sol­dier, deep down, com­mits to.”

Aus­tralia Day marks a new type of film­mak­ing for Foxtel. As a co-pro­duc­tion with Screen Queens­land and Bris­bane-based Hood­lum pro­duc­tions, it will be dis­trib­uted by Icon Films in Dendy Cin­e­mas as well as air­ing on the small screen.

“It’s a re­ally in­ter­est­ing model. It’s a first ... and I think this is a resur­gence of them (Foxtel) be­ing the home of Aus­tralian sto­ries,” says Hood­lum co-founder Nathan May­field.

Aus­tralia Day is a Bris­bane story through and through, from its set­ting to the script penned by lo­cal screen­writer Stephen M Ir­win Brown to a lo­cally-sourced cast of more than 100 sup­port­ing ac­tors. Brown rel­ished the op­por­tu­nity to film in the river city.

“In most cases if I do a mod­ern movie it will be in Syd­ney,” he says. “I re­ally thor­oughly en­joyed go­ing into the streets of Bris­bane to tell this story.”

It’s a happy co­in­ci­dence, Brown says, that the film is be­ing re­leased at the same time the na­tion is de­bat­ing the tim­ing of the Aus­tralia Day pub­lic hol­i­day and what it means for in­dige­nous Aus­tralians.

“The ar­gu­ments and dis­cus­sions are good,” he says.

“Peo­ple move for­ward, coun­tries move for­ward and coun­tries change be­cause peo­ple change.”

Aus­tralia Day opens in cin­e­mas on Thurs­day, Septem­ber 21 and will be avail­able on the Foxtel Store from Wed­nes­day, Septem­ber 27.

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