Mary Duong and Rachel Anderson’s ‘Bananas’ in SXSW online showcase

Rachel Anderson and Mary Duong in ‘Bananas’ (Photo: Mia Forrest).

Before SXSW was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, Mary Duong and Rachel Anderson’s short-form docuseries Bananas was due to screen in the festival’s Episodic Pilot Competition.

After a heartwarming response to the series on SBS On Demand, the Queensland filmmakers had been excited to increase their global reach. The cancellation was gutting – no less so because Duong was already in the US. It threw plans for the foreseeable future into the air.

However, for at least the next month, Bananas will stream for free globally on Vimeo as part of a special showcase of works from the SXSW Episodic Competition. Also included are comedies ​Bored,​ ​Cooper’s Bar​, ​The Dream​ and T​his Isn’t Me​, and documentary H​omecoming: The Journey of Cardboard​. On April 23, there will be a virtual Q&A with all the creators.

“This sampling of our Episodic Pilot program showcases diverse perspectives using comedy and heart to tackle the complexities and joys of human connection,” said SXSW senior film programmer Claudette Godfrey.

“In this time of uncertainty, we love seeing these filmmakers forging a path for their work to connect to the audience who we know could use some laughs.”

The showcase is the result of the tenacity of Bored co-creators Coral Amiga and Nicole Hartley, who reached out to Vimeo. They knew that without a festival premiere, many creators had suddenly found themselves without a platform to launch their works.

Anderson and Duong jumped at the chance to take part. However, one of the key issues as festivals look to move elements of their program online is streaming rights, and Bananas is still on SBS On Demand.

“Our license agreement wouldn’t ordinarily allow for a worldwide online release. However, SBS is incredibly supportive of diverse and early-career filmmakers and they gave us the go ahead to take part,” the writer/producer tells IF.

Produced through the SBS and Screen Queensland Unscripted Short-Form Content initiative, Bananas is a 3 x 5 minute series that explores Duong and Anderson’s first-generation Asian-Australian identities through a focus on food and family, covering their experiences growing up living between two cultures in Queensland.

“We’ve been able to see people from all different backgrounds connect to the series in their own way. Everyone has a family story and we’ve gotten messages telling us that the series inspired them to call their mum! That makes it a success in our eyes,” says Duong.

Now back in Australia, Duong is focusing on developing other projects and thinking about the next steps; both her and Anderson are keen to take Bananas to a longer-form.

“Through these crazy times, we need to look out for ourselves and each other and that’s my focus at the moment,” she says.

A Griffith Film School grad, Duong created, co-wrote, and co-produced LGBTQ+ web series Two Weeks, which has had 1.7 million views on YouTube. With producer Rhiannon Steffensen, Duong is talking about expanding the series in some way, or bringing elements of it to a longer-form series.

Duong was also one of the Screen Producers Australia’s Ones to Watch in 2019, and is currently among the writers shortlisted for Screen Queensland’s 2020 Greg Coote Scholarship.