For Joy Hopwood, diversity is a ‘Rhapsody of Love’

'Rhapsody of Love'.

Rhapsody of Love is independent through and through.

Independently funded, self-distributed, and with a diverse cast and crew, the film is determined to forge its own path.

Rhapsody of Love makes its theatrical debut June 24 in Dendy theatres and tells the story of four couples navigating different stages of their relationships.

The rom-com stars Kathy Luu and Damien Sato in headline roles with support from Ben Hanly, Lily Stewart, Jessica Niven, Tom Jackson, Joy Hopwood, and Khan Chittenden.

The central plot follows events planner Jess (Luu) who falls for photographer Justin (Sato) only to find he is already in a relationship.

For writer, director, producer and star Joy Hopwood, the film’s diversity was a key consideration, with the project dubbed the ‘1st Asian-Australian romantic comedy’.

“I think it’s important to have diversity because it reflects our society as it stands today, and it’s important for everyone to feel that they belong, no matter what background they come from,” she told IF.

“You don’t see very many Asian-Australians on the big screen just doing everyday things and not in a stereotypical way either.

“Everyone needs to see themselves reflected on screen.”

And it’s not just in front of the camera, with that diversity translating behind the lens as well.

Along with Hopwood, producer Ana Tiwary, cinematographer Goldie Soetianto, sound recordist Lara Cross, and production designer Jessie Singh make up a strong female contingent behind the scenes.

Other heads of department include editor Jon Cohen and composer Roy Nicolson.

Asian representation in film was brought to the forefront with Crazy Rich Asians in 2018 and now Hopwood is hoping to use that momentum in the Australian market with her take on ‘Crazy Middle-Class Asians’.

“I’ve seen [positive] changes on TV and film in the last 2-3 years [but] we still have a long way to go in terms of television representation and also diverse stories on screen.

”That was our main goal, to make everyone feel that this is a film for everyone.”

Lead actress Luu is a big admirer of Hopwood’s drive.

“Joy is advancing both diversity and the whole independent film industry at the same time.

“What I love is it doesn’t matter what obstacles there are, may it be funding or locations falling through, she is determined to get the film happening and does everything in her power to follow her love and vision for the film.”

Independent distribution

While the project has secured a yet-to-be-announced North American distribution deal, at home the filmmakers will be self-distributing through a partnership with Dendy Cinemas.

“We have a non-exclusive theatrical deal with Dendy Cinemas where they have paid for all cinema screenings in Australia,” Hopwood said.

“We have a two-week run. We are really happy about that and we share a portion of the box office, so we are really lucky that Dendy have given us a go.”

Without a recognised distributor the film has relied on grassroots strategies to get the word out.

“We’ve had to look outside the box and not rely too much on mainstream media, and rely more on social media and our social networks.  

“I have run the annual Joy House Film Festival for eight years and have a mailing list and Facebook page. My producer partner Ana Tiwary runs the Diversity in Australian Media Facebook page.

“We also both have networks, myself being a founding member of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance’s (MEAA) Diversity committee and NSW representative.

“We have strong community comradeship and support.”

Preliminary success

Rhapsody of Love had its first showing at the Gold Coast Film Festival in April to great success.

Festival attendees took to IMDB, calling the film a ‘relevant, modern age movie’ and a ‘wonderful surprise’.

“It was really wonderful to see it so embraced, [it was] beyond what we expected” said Hopwood. “We didn’t expect the audience to really love our film that much and to stay behind for an hour and a half just saying it’s wonderful to see a diverse film and they just felt so uplifted after watching it.”

“They felt some sort of love coming out of it,” said Luu, “To have a good feeling is a very positive thing coming out of a movie.”

Looking to the future

While still focused on Rhapsody of Love, Hopwood is already in post-production for her next film; Get a Life, Alright! a musical take on the romantic comedy.

The project is co-written by Hopwood and Shamini Singhal, with DOP Linda Ung.

Abril Tolnay, Satish Kala, Aileen Huynh, Dilshan Rain, and Sukh Raj Deepak make up the main cast.

“Like all my other films, diversity is again at the forefront; it’s a romantic comedy set around a music video show with original music from the ‘80s, ‘90s and noughties styles.

“It’s the first indie rom-com musical led by diverse female key creatives.”