It’s a super-fast wrap for Serhat Caradee’s ‘A Lion Returns’

Tyler De Nawi and Danny Elacci in ‘A Lion Returns’.

Serhat Caradee and his creative team have demonstrated that filmmakers do not need a lot of time and money or any government support to realise their dream.

The writer-director-producer has begun the offline edit on A Lion Returns – a topical, terrorism-related drama which he shot in Sydney in just 10 days, using two Red 4K cameras and a crew of around 26.

He figures he can complete the film for a total cost of $180,000, including post-production, for which he will seek funding from Screen Australia and Create NSW.

It’s his second collaboration with co-writer and executive producer Les Chantery. The duo made their debut with Cedar Boys, a 2009 crime drama which starred Chantery as a Lebanese-Australian in Sydney’s tough western suburbs who decides to steal drugs to help his older brother, who’s in prison.

Tyler De Nawi (The Principal, Here Come the Habibs!) plays the protagonist Jamal in A Lion Returns. Jamal is an Australian-born Arab who returns home to see his terminally-ill mother after abandoning his wife and young son to spend 18 months fighting with militants in Syria.

Jacqui Purvis and Maha Wilson in ‘A Lion Returns’.

The experience affected him emotionally and psychologically, with repercussions for each member of his extended family including his wife Heidi (Jacqui Purvis), his mother Manal (Helen Chebatte), father Yosef (Taffy Hany), older brother Omar (Danny Elacci), Omar’s wife Maya (Maha Wilson) and his uncle Yahya (Buddy Dannoun).

Described as a tale of redemption, forgiveness and the consequences of one’s actions, the film asks: Will Jamal be forgiven for his actions or are there more sinister motives at play. Is he a terrorist or an easily-led and confused pawn?

Caradee tells IF he got the idea when he read about Australians who had gone to fight in various wars in the Middle East and often suffered PTSD, depression and guilt when they returned.

According to his research, more than 140 Australians have gone on such missions, of whom around 70 returned, 40 were killed in action and the rest are missing.

Caradee, Chantery and fellow producers Liz Burton, Sabin Gnawali and Constantino Dias Mendes raised nearly $49,000 from crowd-funding site Pozible and $25,000 from private investors.

He will do the online edit at Spectrum Films and he estimates post will cost $100,000. The producers deliberately did not seek production funding from federal or state agencies.

“There were multiple reasons why we chose to fund it ourselves and shoot with such a tight schedule, mainly to allow us the creative freedom to tell the story we wanted with no outside interference or input,” Caradee said.

“The script had plenty of industry heavyweights read it and give notes, feedback and suggestions, but we didn’t have to answer to anyone once we knew what we wanted to say and how to say it. Another reason was the turnaround period. If we were to apply for production or development funding, we’d be waiting another year or two to make the film.”

The narrative unfolds in real time with the first 30 minutes filmed in a car as Jamal and Omar talk and argue, the rest inside and around the family home. Simon Koloadin was the DOP.

Caradee has received Screen Australia development funding for several other projects, and earns a living by teaching at film and acting schools and with roles in shows such as Hunters and The Principal.

Although a couple of Australian distributors have shown interest in the project the producers intend to hold off on deals until the film is completed in April/May.

They aim to secure a premiere at a major film festival in Australia or Europe and then engage an international sales agent.

“We will try to start with Cannes or Sydney then work our way through the European festival circuit and hopefully festivals in North America,” he said.