Top row: Mentee directors William Duan, Tammy Yang, Samira Cox (also a writer) and Puneet Gulati. Bottom row: Writers Shivangi Bhowmick, Nazifa Amiri, Monique Nair and Gregory Francis.
Production on anthology feature My Melbourne, produced by Mind Blowing Entertainment, is set to get underway this month in collaboration with high-profile Indian directors Kabir Khan, Onir, Rimas Das and Imtiaz Ali.
The film interweaves four stories from emerging writing and directing teams, exploring sexuality, gender, disability and race. Mitu Bhowmick Lange and Leanne Tonkes produce, with production support via VicScreen and Screen Australia.
Each of the four shorts are inspired by true stories or lived experience and together are designed to create a portrait of life in multicultural Melbourne.
Khan, Onir, Das and Ali will mentor the teams and be in Melbourne for the shoot, with Onir arriving this week.
The mentee directors include Puneet Gulati, Samira Cox, Tammy Yang and William Duan, with writers Monique Nair, Nazifa Amiri, Cox, Shivangi Bhowmick and Gregory Francis.
The assistant director team includes Param Walia, Ron Kahlon, and Will Murphy, the camera team is Brad Francis and Rhys Ballis, and the production team Anmol Kachroo, Deepti Bhangde, Vedant Sawhney and Saharsha Pradhanang.
Each of the shorts will also be worked on by two students from Bus Stop Films, with the organisation also helping with casting for Into the Spotlight.
The hope is to turn My Melbourne into an ongoing initiative, with the film to premiere at the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne. Mind Blowing Films will then release it theatrically.
The Indian Film Festival of Melbourne runs a short film competition every year, for which most of the mentor directors have previously been judges. However, Lange, who is the festival’s director, had observed that many of the emerging filmmakers struggled to find further life for their films, and so she wanted to create a larger vehicle for them.
In particular, she wanted to encourage new filmmakers to tell the stories based on their experiences, in an authentic and uncompromised way, with support of experienced mentors. Thus, My Melbourne was born, with hundreds of submissions put forward when the initiative was first announced prior to the pandemic.
Lange tells IF that the project’s themes of diversity happened naturally.
“All the writers and all the mentee directors who came on board, they’ve written stories that are based on their lived experience; they’re inspired by true incidents.
“It took on a life and shape of its own… And Melbourne is so wonderfully multicultural, so diverse, so vibrant, but that’s not necessarily often reflected in our screen culture. That’s why I thought it would be nice to call it My Melbourne, because it’s based on very authentic migrant stories, migrant experiences, which reflect these four foundations of diversity.”
Lange is grateful to have the mentor directors on board and to have them come out to Australia. Given many of them had been involved with the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne, they were aware of the filmmaking talent in Australia.
“When you work in a certain setup and then you get an opportunity where you’re working with fresh minds who are new, hungry, and eager, in a brand new set up, I think there’s some excitement and there’s a new energy. So I think that’s what was appealing to them,” she says.
The films are:
Mentor director: Onir Mentee director: William Duan Concept by: Gregory Francis Screenplay by: Gregory Francis and William Duan
Synopsis: A story of grief and forgiveness, Kanjeevaram follows the reunion of a queer Indian man Raman and his father Prakash, who arrives in Melbourne from India to complete the Asthi Visarjan ash spreading ceremony after the passing of his late wife Padma, Raman’s mother.
INTO THE SPOTLIGHT
Mentor director: Rima Das Mentee director: Samira Cox Concept and screenplay by: Samira Cox
Synopsis: As a young girl Emma was an aspiring dancer, despite having both hearing and vision difficulties until bullying made her give up her dream. Will a confrontation with one of her bullies lead to her rekindling her dreams?
Mentor director: Kabir Khan Mentee director: Puneet Gulati Concept and screenplay by: Monique Nair and Nazifa Amiri
Synopsis: Fifteen year old Setara joins a local cricket team as she attempts to rebuild her life in Melbourne after fleeing Taliban rule in Afghanistan with her mother and older sister.
ART OF THROWING PEBBLES
Mentor director: Imtiaz Ali Concept by: Mitu Bhowmick Lange Mentee director: Tammy Yang Screenplay and mentee director: Shivangi Bhowmick
Synopsis: Sakshi is a 23-year-old newly married girl from a small town who has recently moved to Melbourne and Jules is a 52-year-old homeless wanderer with a flair for poetry. Their worlds collide on the pavement of St Kilda with unexpected results.