Mike Kang’s debut feature delves into the Sydney suburb of Blacktown, where interracial relations are threatened with prejudice, gossip and lies.
"I realised that even though there was now a real visible presence of African immigrants in Blacktown, no one around me knew anything about them," Sydney-based director Mike Kang (pictured left) says. "They didn't want to know anything about them, either out of apathy or hostility. But I knew nothing about them either."
This community and personal ignorance was the catalyst behind Kang's debut feature - Gossip Nation, which explores African immigration in Sydney's Blacktown and the current problems, prejudices and attitudes surrounding the topic. The film from Kang (who has directed a number of shorts and scores of corporate videos and commercials) is set to have its premiere in the western Sydney suburb of Bankstown on June 11.
While a fictional narrative, much of the film is based on real life experiences, largely shared by Daniel Okoduwa, a local business owner and immigrant from Nigeria, who played a pivotal role in shaping the story. "He had a burning fire to reveal to me a community that was in constant tension and trouble over gossip," Kang recalls. "Much of what has happened and is happening now was written by Daniel into the film."
Featuring a slew of local talent, Kang found his cast - the majority of whom had never acted before - at the auditions he held in a small hall provided by the Blacktown Arts Centre. "The local African population, young and old, were dragged in front of my eyes by Daniel, revealing to me the kinds of unique talents and energies I had never auditioned anywhere else. We had auditionees who were simple university students to pastors in churches, from Australian born second generation Africans to new arrivals, plus a few favours pulled from past actor friends outside in the industry and we were on our way to filming."
As with the most perceptive socially aware films, this was never a didactic work, but presents both sides of the argument to audiences. "Daniel and I agreed on one thing - that we will not make this into a one sided PC film in which our sole aim is to bring Africans in Australia into the ‘good' light like everybody else. Gossip Nation was to be a story that revealed to the world the current human problems and dramas suffered by a small growing African community in Blacktown."
Having immigrated from South Korea when he was just a child, this story holds a particular resonance for Kang. "I believe Gossip Nation really represents what is possible in Australia today - that people of all cultures can come together and share their unique stories and points of view of our growing nation. And in the process we can work together to create something that can be shared, enjoyed and thought about. For me, this is what multiculturalism must be about."
Gossip Nation will premiere at Bankstown HOYTS, Cinema 6 on Saturday June 11 at 8:30pm. For more information call Scrim Entertainment on 02 9676 3407 or email director Mike Kang. The trailer for the film can be viewed here.