A Mad Tale
FILMINK speaks to Aussie filmmaker Brendan Fletcher whose debut feature film, Mad Bastards, has been selected to screen at Sundance.
Months after sending in his entry to Sundance and not hearing a whisper about it, Brendan Fletcher was working hard away in an edit suite for his new ABC mini-series Judith Lucy's Spiritual Journey when he got the phone call to say his debut feature Mad Bastards was going to be competing at the prestigious festival. "I almost fell on the floor," he laughs. "My knees were fully shaking, I just could not believe it. It was such a fantastic surprise. I'm really happy."
Premiering internationally at the festival, the film is one of the thirteen that were selected to compete in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition, the very same category that Animal Kingdom took out the Grand Jury Prize for last year.
A decade in the making, Mad Bastards was conceived during the years that Fletcher was working on a couple of other documentaries in the Kimberley region of north-west Australia. Not your typical casting process, Fletcher found his actors in the locals with whom he spent time, even before he had a story. "Time and time again I would encounter these fantastic real characters that had such incredible life experiences," he says.
"We'd go have a drink somewhere and have a cup of tea around the fire and these men would emerge," Fletcher recalls, "these incredible personalities, great stories, fantastic charisma, really charming but at the same time really worn and emotional and I thought ‘Man, these guys are movie stars.'"
Fletcher penned Mad Bastards from the collective life experience of its cast members. A stirring story of reconnection, it follows TJ, a hardened Aboriginal man from the city who travels to the tiny town of Five Rivers in the Kimberley seeking the son he's never known.
The title also came easily and Fletcher describes that being a "mad bastard" is a good thing, especially in the Kimberley. "It's someone that is brave to the point of being mad," explains Fletcher. "It's like saying, ‘You're a little bit crazy but I like you.'"
With a love of the bush, Fletcher has always found the region's rugged landscape appealing despite the filming difficulties due to its remote nature. "Spiritually, it's a very powerful country," he says. "After going there once, I just thought, ‘This is a cinematic landscape; this is a cinematic country with cinematic characters. I want to come back and do something with that.'"
Scoring the film are the native rock/folk band, The Pigram Brothers, whom Fletcher has collaborated with since 1996, and singer-songwriter Alex Lloyd. Fletcher felt The Pigram Brothers embodied the sound of the Kimberley. "We wanted to immerse the film in that music because it so much transports you to the place," he says.
Despite having other projects in development, Fletcher says that he'll be devoting most of his time to Mad Bastards for the next six months. "It's taken the best part of ten years to make. I really want to throw myself towards that and give it everything before the release."
Mad Bastards will have its Australian premiere at the Sydney Festival on January 18 where The Pigram Brothers and Alex Lloyd will perform prior to the screening. To find out more and to buy tickets to this special event, go here. The film will also play at the Bigpond Adelaide Film Festival, and will be released in cinemas nationally in May 2011. For more information on the film, visit the website.