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20 06 2018 - Media release

Realism the key for new film Hearts and Bones

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Director Ben Lawrence, co-writer Beatrix Christian and producer Matt Reeder

Create NSW and Screen Australia have announced funding for a new feature film, Hearts and Bones, a story of hope and friendship between a war photographer and a South Sudanese refugee set in Western Sydney.

Written and directed by Ben Lawrence, co-written by Beatrix Christian and produced by Matt Reeder at Night Kitchen Productions, the film has received principal production funding from Screen Australia in association with Curious Film, and financed with support from Spectrum Films and Create NSW. The film explores the issues of personal identity, the ties of family, friendship, masculinity and fatherhood, all set against Sydney’s diverse and expanding cultural divide.

Lawrence’s documentary Ghosthunter which is also set in Western Sydney, made its world premiere at Sydney Film Festival this month, where it was awarded the festival’s Documentary Australia Foundation Award for Australian Documentary.

The film’s producer Matt Reeder worked with South Sudanese criminal lawyer, refugee and public speaker Deng Adut for community consultation to develop the story and scripting.

“Throughout development it was vitally important for the voices of the characters to be as truthful as possible,” said producer Matt Reeder.

“With the support of Screen Australia we were able to consult directly with members of the South Sudanese community, in particular Deng Adut, who offered invaluable first-hand insight which enabled us to ground our fictional story with the anchor of authenticity. It is incredibly exciting to have the opportunity to bring Ben Lawrence and Beatrix Christian’s beautiful screenplay to the cinema and we are all thrilled to have the support of Screen Australia, Curious Film, Spectrum Films and Create NSW in backing this timely story.”

Create NSW Director of Screen Sector Investment Sophia Zachariou said, “Finding diverse stories that reflect cultural realism is a key priority for us and we were delighted with the premise of Hearts and Bones. As home to a significant refugee population, for a NSW and specifically Western Sydney set story, it’s important that audiences have access to such reflective stories. We were glad to see that such consideration has been taken in developing the feature.”

Head of Production for Screen Australia, Sally Caplan adds, “Ben Lawrence has had huge success as a TVC director, and so we are excited by this timely, moving and surprising feature film story he has crafted with co-writer Beatrix Christian, about the residual trauma of war and the road to redemption and hope, set in Western Sydney. It is compelling and distinctive. Ben’s a star on the rise and it’s fantastic to see his talent develop into features, first with his extraordinary award-winning documentary Ghosthunter and now with his first scripted feature, Hearts and Bones.”

Curious Film is the Australian and New Zealand distributor and Spectrum Films are working on post-production for the film.

South Sudanese filmmaker, Ez Deng, who worked on SBS drama Sunshine is working as a casting consultant for the film as well as on a director’s attachment for the film.

In mid-June Ez will open casting for the film to search for a male lead across the South Sudanese communities in Melbourne (Sunshine – 23 June) and Sydney (Blacktown – 21 July). If you are interested in auditioning for Hearts and Bones, please contact: [email protected]

Production Credit: Hearts and Bones is a Night Kitchen Production with major production investment from Screen Australia in association with Curious Film, and financed with support from Spectrum Films and Create NSW. Curious Film is the Australian and New Zealand distributor and Urban Distribution International will handle international sales.

About Deng Adut: Deng grew up in South Sudan and was conscripted to fight as part of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army at the age of only 11. After years of fighting, a chance reunion with his older brother led to Deng being smuggled out of Sudan in a courageous escape, with the brothers seeking refuge in Australia. Arriving in Sydney speaking little English and with no knowledge of Western culture or ways, Deng and John worked hard to earn University degrees. After graduating from Western Sydney University, Deng is now a partner in Western Sydney law firm AC Law Group and set up the John Mac foundation to honour his brother, who died in action as an aid worker on his return to South Sudan in 2014.

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