Paul William Dawkins's 13 minute Sydney-made black comedy will premiere in Australia at the genre fest following international play at Lime Light Film Awards (Best Short Film), Film In Focus, Short Cine Fest, SHORT to the Point and Indie Short Fest.
Victoria Wharfe McIntyre's debut feature, shot in NSW's Kangaroo Valley, takes up where her impressive short film Miroleft off, this time with a female heroine (Alexis Lane) exacting revenge on an unjust colonial Australia. The Nightingale meets The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith through a Tarantino filter, if you will. We can already tell that this is going to be Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones's film of the year.
Set in Blacktown, Western Sydney, Benefited follows disparate tales of desperate youths living in modern Australia. Binding the tales together is Dity, played by the film’s writer/director Clare McCann, a 20 something who has fallen pregnant to her abusive partner, Ray (Ryan Bown). McCann plays with time as she bounces her audience back and forth to different points in their lives from first kiss to first brutal assault. Elsewhere, 15-year-old thief Will (Cristian Borello) struggles to connect with his half sister and finds solace in drugs and burglary.
This a thoroughly bleak film which doesn’t pull its punches, and with good reason. As proven by the film’s closing text, Benefited wants to paint a picture of domestic violence without the Hollywood lacquer painted over it. Ray doesn’t come into Dity’s life twirling his moustache and looking menacingly at the camera. He woos her after a festival; he defends her against her drunken stepfather. It’s the little things he does after this that are troubling, so slight that you wouldn’t notice. Even being the first to say ‘I love you’ is merely a ploy to control Dity. It’s the mundanity of the things he does, that McCann writes about, which underlines the domestic terror her protagonist is in.
Elsewhere, perhaps less successfully, McCann tackles the state of Australia’s social benefits system; painting a world of grey cubicles peopled by apathetic office workers. Having managed to give Ray several layers, it’s a shame to see people Dity encounters on the dole as nothing more than pantomime villains, something to push Dity on a downward spiral.
A sad and down spirited film, Benefited might not be Australia’s answer to I, Daniel Blake, but it is the kind of film that can burst a few misconceptions people have about domestic violence.
Emerging filmmaker Tig Terera mines his own story of immigration from Harare in Zimbabwe to Melbourne in Australia with his single mum, searching for a better life. Gorgeous cinematography by Jesse Lane.