Shorts ‘Voice Activated’, ‘Hafekasi’ and ‘Blood’ selected for Tribeca

'Voice Activated'. (Photo: Phil Erbacher)

Tribeca Film Festival will feature three Australian shorts this year: Steve Anthopoulos’ Voice Activated, Annelise Hickey’s Hafekasi and Vathana Suganya Suppiah’s Blood

The festival announced its shorts program overnight – more 76 will screen this year – after having previously unveiled its feature selection last week.

A Tribeca selection follows a successful local run for Voice Activated. Originally funded under Screen NSW’s Screenability program, it first premiered at Sydney Film Festival last year and went on to be nominated for an AACTA Award

Written and directed by Anthopoulos, the short tells the story of Trent (Aleks Mikic) – a florist and deliveryman who has a stutter – who is forced to find his voice in order to operate a voice-activated car. Comedian Becky Lucas and Sam Neill also star, while Liam Heyen and Yingna Lu produce. 

Voice Activated is inspired by Anthopoulos’ own experiences, having stuttered since around six-years-old; he was motivated to make the film after watching Birgit Gholke’s Austrian documentary Stuttering – My Constant Companion programmed for Sydney Film Festival’s Screenability strand in 2018.

Anthopoulos tells IF he is over the moon to have Voice Activated programmed in a festival like Tribeca. 

“We all keep pinching ourselves,” he says. “It’s a great affirmation of the short film.”

Anthopoulos, Lu and Heyen are hopeful to use the run in New York to begin discussions with American companies about a feature they are developing which is loosely inspired by Voice Activated. 

“It’s a great opportunity for us to leverage the short film because it’s such a good tonal proof of concept for Steve as an exciting writer-director,” Heyen tells IF.

Lu adds there is an active stuttering community in the US, and she believes being able to connect with more people with that life experience “will only be fruitful for how we take on the story with the feature.” 

‘Hafekasi’. (Photo: Matthew Chuang)

Writer-director Hickey’s Hafekasi, starring Laura Gordon and Izabelle Tokava, makes its world premiere at Tribeca. Produced by Josie Baynes, the film is set in Melbourne suburbia in the ‘90s and follows a 10-year-old Tongan-Australian girl who begins to realise she’s different to her single, white mum and family. The cinematographer is Matthew Chuang, editor Grace Eyre and composer Will Morrissey.

“We first set out to make Hafekasi with the hopes of getting it into a local film festival in Melbourne. When we received the news that Tribeca wanted to world premiere our short, in one of the best cities for art, at a festival that was founded by some of the industry’s heavyweights – Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal – I was in shock. If I’m honest, I still am,” Hickey tells IF.

“I hesitated writing the film for so many years and now, we’re off to NYC to watch a story of a Polynesian girl on the big screen. What an honour and a dream.

“The response from the Polynesian community has already been overwhelming with support! It goes to show that audiences are wanting to see this story all over.”

‘Blood’. (Photo: Ailsa Aikoa)

Blood, written and directed by Suppiah, an Australian filmmaker based in London, also makes its world debut at the festival. 

The comedy drama follows Shanti, who bleeds during a Tamil coming-of-age ceremony. In a culture where where fertility is celebrated, menstruation is shunned and infertility is silenced, she struggles to keep a secret.

“It’s a privilege to be selected by Tribeca.  It’s an honour to share my culture and this story with an audience,” Suppiah tells IF.

“The story is based on my experiences growing up in the Tamil community in Melbourne.”

The film was made in London with part funding from the BFI. Daljinder Johal is the producer and Aaliah Simpson the EP, while the cast includes Taru Devani, Bairavi Manoharan, Shruthi Yasothan, Neelam Bakshi, Taru Devani and Jeffin Kunjumon. Ailsa Aikoa is the DOP, with composer Roshan Gunga and editor Elise Butt.

The three shorts join Australian feature film You’ll Never Find Me, directed by Josiah Allen and Indianna Bell, in the Tribeca line-up. Other films from Australians include the late Jeffrey Darling’s He Went That Way, starring Jacob Elordi and Zachary Quinto, and documentary Transition, from Jordan Bryon.

Tribeca Film Festival runs June 7-18 in New York.