'Petrol'.

Alena Lodkina’s sophomore feature Petrol will be the first Australian feature film to play in competition at Locarno Film Festival since Clara Law’s Floating Life in 1996.

Petrol, produced by Arenamedia, has been selected for Locarno’s Cineasti del Presente (‘directors of the present’) program, dedicated to first and second features by emerging global talents. It is the first Australian film to ever be selected for the section.

Set in Melbourne, Petrol stars Bump‘s Nathalie Morris as Eva, an impressionable film student of Russian background, who befriends an enigmatic performance artist named Mia (Hannah Lynch) who quickly takes hold of Eva’s imagination.

As Eva moves in with Mia and their lives grow more and more entwined, Eva sets off on a surreal journey of awakening, haunted by dreams, fantasies and ghosts. 

Lodkina said: “For me, Petrol is a film about a young woman’s search of self, the strange line between self and others, the vulnerability of youth. At a time of change and discovery, when one readily loses oneself in other people, the delicate line between reality and imagination can become blurred.”

Petrol will make its world premiere at the Swiss festival August 5, with the Australian premiere at Melbourne International Film Festival August 11.

The film is produced by Kate Laurie, with cinematography by Michael Latham, editing by Luca Cappelli, production design by Leah Popple, costume design by Phoebe Taylor and score by Mikey Young.

Laurie said: “We couldn’t be more pleased with this premiere, especially following the challenges of shooting the film during Melbourne’s 2021 lockdowns.”

A MIFF Premiere Fund film, it is produced with the support of Screen Australia, VicScreen, SBS and Orange Entertainment. Robert Connolly and Liz Kearney are executive producers.

Lodkina’s debut was Strange Colours, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival after it was supported via the Venice Biennale College.

That film followed a young woman, Milena, played by Kate Cheel (Riot, One Eyed Girl) who travels to a remote opal mining community to see her estranged, ill father (Daniel P. Jones, Hail) to try and mend their fractured bond. Lodkina wrote the script with producer Isaac Wall, and Laurie also produced.

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