Blurring The Boundaries
Dee McLachlan's 10 Terrorists could hardly come at a more appropriate time. With Australia succumbing more and more to the mindless "reality" of shows like Being Lara Bingle and The Shire, McLachlan's scathing parody of modern culture hits home with deadly accuracy. Screening at the Indie Gems Film Festival this coming weekend, 10 Terrorists tells the story of contestants on a reality TV show competing in a series of challenges to win one million dollars for a terrorist cause of their choice.
"We are bombarded with so much misinformation and junk, lies and brainwashing from media and politicians that we hardly know what to believe in or think," laments McLachlan. "It comes at us so hard and fast and relentlessly, hence the pace of the film. This film is intended to blur the boundaries of reality versus fiction, caution about the cost of 15 minutes of fame, and question the notion of perpetual eliminations towards only one winner."
The idea for 10 Terrorists began through the director's feelings of frustrations over the current state of the Australian film industry, as explained by co-producer Andrea Buck. "While we all struggle to get our films financed, and Australian films struggled to get traction at the box office, and reports abounded about the dire audience engagement with local films, Dee watched with disbelief at the seemingly endless rise in the number of reality shows on TV and the audience's seemingly insatiable desire to consume them. What was going on? What did this say about our culture? Were the reality shows reflecting our culture, or was our culture being informed by these ridiculous shows?
"At the same time our media and psyche seemed to be obsessed by the notion of an impending threat of terrorism amid our War On Terrorism, but Dee was not so sure who the real terrorists were anyway," Buck continues. "In our daily lives, here in Australia, driving a car or being stung by a bee were still more likely to kill you than a bomb from a terrorist. The US is the biggest arms dealer on the planet, and Nelson Mandela was the big terrorist in South Africa under the Apartheid regime. Was the War On Terror a bigger threat to world stability than Al Qaeda? There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, as we were told. Reality TV is not real. You can't believe what you read or watch in the media, so who, and what can we believe?"
On face value, 10 Terrorists appears a stark contrast to McLachlan's critically acclaimed drama, The Jammed, based in the seedy underworld of the sex slave trade. As is quickly becoming her trademark though, both films bravely cover taboo subject matter with disarming frankness. Swapping the dark settings of The Jammed with the pitch black comedy of 10 Terrorists, the director manages to maintain her controversy-baiting style through two completely different genres.
"Through my career as a filmmaker I am starting to see that the theme of confronting audiences is a common thread in the stories that appeal to me," laughs McLachlan. "Perhaps I should make my life easier and just make a film about a bunch of zombies who invade Canberra and eat their way through parliament?"
McLachlan and Buck both know all too well the frustrations involved in bringing an indie film to a wider audience. After receiving rejection after rejection for The Jammed, the pair were eventually saved by John L. Simpson of production house and indie distributor, Titan View, after viewing the film at a small local film festival. "He believed in it absolutely," admits McLachlan. "Took a loan out against his house for marketing - and a single screen at the Nova Cinema, Melbourne, helped turn The Jammed into a must-see film, where audiences were left lining the block for tickets, with some having to return three days in a row before they could secure a ticket. The Jammed broke box office records, attaining the highest screen average for an independent Australian film in history."
Their story emphasises the importance of film festivals like Indie Gems that highlight emerging filmmakers around the world. "These kind of events are instrumental to independent films finding an audience," implores McLachlan. "Our screens are so filled with US product that arrives on our shores pre-marketed with huge campaigns in place. Local distributors are more in the business of releasing US product, and find it far more resource heavy to release local films. With the rebate, we are now also seeing local distributors producing their own product. If a film is privately financed, it doesn't even have support of local agencies, and often will not already have a distributor.
"With screenings like Indie Gems, the independent film is given an opportunity to prove audience engagement which could help to secure commercial screens, or give the film exposure towards other markets."
The Indie Gems Film Festival runs at the Parramatta Riverside Theatres July 26 to 29. 10 Terrorists will play Friday July 27 at 9pm. To check out the full program and buy tickets, head here.