A HOT AND HEAVY TALE
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.