World premiere for Rodd Rathjen’s ‘Buoyancy’ in Berlin

Kea (Mony Ros), Chakra (Sarm Heng) and Rom Ran (Thanawut Kasro) in ‘Buoyancy’ © 2019 Causeway Films, photo credit: Rafael Winer.

Writer-director Rodd Rathjen’s debut feature Buoyancy, a drama set in rural Cambodia that follows Chakra, a 14-year-old boy enslaved on a fishing trawler, will have its world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival.

Produced by Causeway Films’ Sam Jennings, Kristina Ceyton and Rita Walsh in association with Cambodia’s Anupheap Productions and Melbourne-based Definition Films, the film will screen in the Panorama section among 45 titles from 38 countries.

It is said to be the first feature film to shine a light on the crisis of trafficking and slavery in the fishing industries of South-East Asia.

As IF reported, Damon Gameau’s feature doc 2040 will have its world premiere in Berlin’s Generation Kplus section.

Showcasing 29 features, 16 documentary formats and 19 directorial debuts, Panorama 2019 will present a controversial, political, and provocative program, according to the organisers. The opener will be Jenna Bass’ Flatland, in which a bride and her pregnant friend make a liberating getaway across South Africa.

The line-up includes Casey Affleck’s Light of My Life, which stars Affleck, Elisabeth Moss and newcomer Anna Pniowsky in the saga of a father and his young daughter who are trapped in the woods; Jayro Bustamante’s Tremblores (Tremors), about a father who tries to break free from his past after breaking the silence about his true sexuality; and Syllas Tzoumerkas’ The Miracle of the Sargasso Sea , about one woman who is secretly planning to break out of her dreary small-town life and another who finds herself drawn deeper and deeper into a morass of crime and perversion.

Also, Guy Nattiv’s thriller Skin starring Jamie Bell; Jonah Hill’s directorial debut Mid90s; Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir, in which a young film student’s 16mm films allow her to explore a world outside her social and emotional bubble; Kim Longinotto’s Shooting the Mafia, which profiles photographer Letizia Battaglia; and What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael .

Starring Sarm Heng, Thanawut Kasro and Mony Ros, Buoyancy is set deep in rural Cambodia and follows Chakra who is enslaved on a fishing trawler and soon realises his only hope of freedom is to become as violent as his captors.

Jennings said: “Never have I cared so much about a project or been part of one that asked for so much commitment, selflessness and downright grit from everyone involved, all of which were given generously and wholeheartedly.”

Rathjen’s credits include the 2013 short film Tau Seru, which premiered in Cannes’ Critics Week and won Best Australian Short at the Melbourne Film Festival.

Buoyancy was shot in Thai and Khmer, with English sub-titles. Michael Latham is the DOP. Funding came from Screen Australia, Feracious Entertainment, MIFF Premiere Fund, Film Victoria and Definition Films.

Umbrella Entertainment will distribute in Australia and New Zealand after the MIFF premiere, with international sales handled by Charades and Echo Studio.