“St Kilda is where the true events took place, so to have a screening with St Kilda Film Festival is more than exciting to me personally, more so than if it was screened at Cannes Film Festival in my opinion…..” says short film Amissa Anima writer David Markin.
“I agree with David 100%,” adds director Tatiana Doroshenko, who grew up with David in the area.
Set in the 1980s, Amissa Anima follows four boys as they strive to survive on the once dangerous streets of St Kilda, a red light district at the time, a great deal more gentrified today.
“The story was extremely personal as I never at any stage discussed this part of my life with anyone for over 30 years,” says David. “After being back in contact with Tatiana after the same amount of time that I kept it a secret, I told her the story. This was with no intention of making a short film but to explain in my way to Tatiana why I was such an asshole to her at the time. Hahaha that’s another story. So, Tatiana was shocked to hear this story of paedophilia in St Kilda let alone that all these young boys she lived next door to were involved. But she always knew that something like that was happening.”
“It shifted the course of my life and realigned my approach to film making, brought me back home to the truth of the heart, as the source for creative drive and inspiration. Digging up and fighting the old demons from that time was a mighty battle but worth it,” says Tatiana.
The film has played around the world, winning awards in multiple highly respected film festivals, including experimental ones.
“I don’t think it is experimental, so I was surprised that some of the overseas festivals put it in that category,” explains Tatiana. “To me, it is one of the most straight forward stories I have directed. That was the best part about working with a writer and directing David’s material; the story was clear and uncomplicated. The hurdles imposed by the permit meant that we had to ‘work around’ certain content which resulted in ‘experimental’ solutions in parts. But a surreal, psychological approach was always my intention.
“I guess it shares some ground with Romper Stomper and The Boys with their harsh and painful subject matter, and cold look into male gang behaviour and psyche,” Tatiana continues. “For me, telling this kind of bleak story from a child’s eye, I got inspiration from Samson and Delilah. The historical content and sensitive subject matter called for a classical, black and white visual execution and who better to achieve this than the highly experienced veteran cinematographer Ellery Ryan [Angel Baby, Van Diemen’s Land, EMO The Musical].”
What about the casting? “The casting was more difficult than usual; considering the subject matter, only 25 kids applied,” says David. “Tat and I cut that number to 11. The young actor we found for the role of Luka (the youngest kid in the story) was always almost a certainty, the others were a little more uncertain. After the audition we mixed them around from the original character’s they auditioned for – and the cast was born for the four boys…”
“I did my research but when it came down to it I played it by ear,” add Tatiana. “Having worked with children in welfare I used the same principles; work with what they give you, tune in to them. They were all very switched on and got the idea of the film early on. With David’s close guidance and coaching around young male street gang think, I communicated to the cast how the characters relate to each other for example; cold and tough on the outside, but strong care for each other underneath it all.”
“We also spent a lot of time talking with the parents about our intentions for the film,” explains Producer Katrina Mathers. “We really had to work very closely with guidelines provided by the child permit people, meaning things like, no actual swearing on set (words were sometimes constructed in post production; we had to have two scripts – one for the crew, one for the cast, and we shot scenes like the one with the youngest kid in the car, without the adult actor even being present to film on the same day.”