Shorts filmmaker bound for Toronto

A chance meeting with two abattoir workers in Melbourne seven years ago gave Australian writer-director Sotiris Dounoukos the inspiration to shoot A Single Body, a film about two workmates whose friendship is sorely tested by a new employee.

Shot entirely in France, the 19-minute film debuted at the Melbourne International Film Festival and will have its international premiere next month at the Toronto International Film Festival’s inaugural Short Cuts International showcase of short films.

“The short was written in Melbourne seven years ago after a chance meeting with two abattoir workers,” said the Canberra-raised Dounoukos, a graduate of Binger Institute in the Netherlands and the Victorian College of the Art’s School of Film and Television.

“I’d been thinking a lot at the time of my Dad, who’d lost his brother when they were starting out together in Australia. They were very close. It made me think about the ephemerality of the things we often assume or hope will endure forever.”

The film, which features new talent Mexianu Medenou and Doudou Masta in the leads, was a co-production between the filmmaker’s Nestani Films and François-Pierre Clavel and Alexandre Perrier of France’s Kidam, supported by the CNC, La Region Bourgogne and Adami.

“I gave up copyright in order to access the French funds but put a lot of time and money into the film to get it made,” he said.

Of the decision to shoot in France, he said, “While I couldn’t find an abattoir in Victoria that would let us shoot there, I managed to find one with the guys at Kidam in the Burgundy region. It was an artisanal abattoir built in the late 60s, whose time is coming to an end, so the management were happy to have a film shot there that used the lives of the workers to say something bigger about life, rather than an exposé.”

Shot in French with English sub-titles, the film is being sold by the French producers. His credits include the shorts Mona Lisa (20004) and Paper & Sand (2007).

Dounoukos aims to make his feature debut on Joe Cinque’s Consolation, adapted from the book of the same name by Helen Garner and produced by Fandango Australia’s Sue Murray.

Co-written with Matt Rubinstein, the script was developed with the assistance of Screen Australia and Screen ACT and at the Binger Institute.

The novel is the chronicle of Canberra man Joe Cinque, who died in 1997 after his girlfriend, ANU law student Anu Singh, injected him with heroin. Singh was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 10 years in prison but served just four and was released on parole in 2001.

Urban Distribution International has acquired worldwide sales rights and Dounoukos hopes to start shooting in Canberra in early 2015.