A new life. Dreams. The past.
Majak, a teenage boy from South Sudan is haunted by his dark past and torn between his new life and a burning desire to return to home to find his mother.
Interview with Writer/Director Thomas Baricevic
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
I come from a migrant background. My parents came to Australia from Croatia when I was very young. They came here with no money and it was very difficult for them in the beginning. They have forged a life now, through hard work. But it wasn’t always like that, especially for people who had newly arrived to Australia.
They endured a lot of racism and really worked hard at fitting in to an ‘Australian’ way of life, back in the 70s. I drew a lot of inspiration from them and how I grew up and have always focused on personal stories or more so ones that have teenagers dealing with overcoming hurdles to fit in.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
When it came to Hope City, I drew inspiration from English female directors such as Lynne Ramsey who made the hauntingly beautiful Ratcatcher and Andrea Arnold who directed the inner city English grunge film Fish Tank. The look and feel of Fish Tank really gave me something to work with and aspire to.
One other film that caught my attention was La Haine, the French film about three young friends and their struggle to live in a suburb of Paris. Its gritty realism and was something that I was drawn to. Seeing these films has made a huge impact on the way I visualized Hope City and I wish that some of the influences have filtered into Hope City to make it a pleasurable experience.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
Well the film, in essence, is about a young boy, Majak, who gets taken by rebel soldiers as a seven year old and is trained to fight to liberate South Sudan from the Arabic speaking north of Sudan. So it’s a bittersweet tale.
On the one hand he’s been ripped away from his mother at such a young age, and on the other hand he’s being trained to liberate his people. He eventually escapes at the age of ten and finds his way through humanitarian channels to Australia via the United Nations and is ultimately looked after by Awak, his now foster mother.
I do a lot of research on the subjects that I write about. I get into their lives. I visit people and talk to them about what goes on for them. I usually sit down with the person and take notes. With Hope City I went to visit a Lost Boy of Sudan who was an ex child soldier and sat with him and talked about his experiences. I hope that filters into the drama.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development and production?
After the documentary Step by Step, I began reading stories about Sudanese child soldiers and those young boys called Lost Boys of Sudan. The young kids after the war had no family and were on their own. I came across a few books by Cola Bilkuei, Cola's Journey and Boy Soldier.
Boy Soldier in particular struck me as it was set in 1987, about Cola a young boy from a Dinka tribe in the southern Sudan, who was forcibly recruited into Sudan People's Liberation Army. Once they arrived at the camp, exhausted and terrified, they were systematically brutalized by the SPLA (Sudanese People’s Liberation Army) officers who began to turn them into child soldiers.
The children were taught how to handle a rifle, how to fight and how to kill. After two years, he escaped from the camp and began an extraordinary odyssey down the length of Africa and eventually to Australia.
I drew a lot of inspiration from the book. It gave me a real sense of what these boys had gone through in their lives to get to Australia. It gave me the raw material to write parts of the script for Hope City.
The story that I wrote with Peter George was born out of many hours of discussion. I ended up taking away all the notes and fashioning a script out of it. At 9 or 10 drafts later a script came out. Everything that we wrote pretty much ended up on the screen. So the script was very tight
What type of feedback have you received so far?
Generally very positive feedback. Well I kind of have to say that. Audiences are moved by the story. It’s unique in the Australian landscape of films as there aren’t many child soldier stories of teens that have made their way to Australia. In that sense it’s unique and audiences have let us know that’s the case.
But it also has a lot of heart in it. You walk away really feeling for this teenager…his life and what he’s gone through and is going through just to make a better life for himself.
We recently won the audience award at the inaugural Short Cuts Film Festival Dandenong, Victoria. It must have struck a chord with the local audience that has a lot of Sudanese.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
Only in the sense that I was on the right path when deciding to make it. I felt trepidation at first. I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into when making a drama film about an ex child soldier teen living in Australia. However with all the positive feedback I felt vindicated in a sense.
After making the documentary Step By Step…I needed to make HOPE CITY and dramatize it and tell the story of what it would be like be this teenager growing up as the boy next door in a sense...but with all this darkness that has gone on in his life.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
We’d really like to people to see it. That’s the main objective or find a way to see it.
Who do you need to come on board to amplify this film’s message?
I’m developing HOPE CITY into a feature film and would really to hook up with people who can make this a reality.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
I’d like people to walk away from the film having walked in Majak, the lead characters shoes for the duration of the film. That’s all really. To really understand what he’s going through.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
What is it really like to be an ex child soldier and try to live a normal life? Can…and will he find his maternal mother if he goes back to Sudan. These kind of questions.
What are the key creatives developing or working on now?
I’m currently working on developing HOPE CITY into the feature called Lost Boy. So if there are any producers out there wanting to come on-board let me know.
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series and music video. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
Director: Thomas Baricevic
Producer: Peter George
Screenwriter: Thomas Baricevic
Story writers: Thomas Baricevic/Peter George
Thomas began his days as an engineer and later studied sculpture and film at The Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne, Australia. His first short film Ghost of Wannawong shot on super eight, screened at The Buenos Aires International Film Festival in 1997. Since then he has written/directed and produced short films, international documentaries and music videos, including the award winning documentary We Live through These Times about students protesting against educational funding cuts in arts education.
Thomas has been a jury member for the AFI (AACTA) Awards and co-founded Short Trips and Fitzroy Shorts monthly short film festivals that ran collectively over eight years which showcased local and international short filmmakers, screening over 1000 short films in his capacity as a curator.
Thomas began working with the Melbourne Sudanese community in 2008 on a documentary titled Step by Step. It proved to be a success and was a catalyst to many projects such as the short film The Fabric which is currently on the festival circuit, which in turn led to the making of Hope City. Thomas is currently in development on a follow up to Hope City with a feature film version, titled Lost Boy.
Peter George is a Melbourne based Producer, Writer, Interviewer and Script Editor. In 1999 he co-produced and appeared in the award winning documentary Original Schtick. This film went on to appear in a variety of festivals including Sundance 2000 and took out two AFI Awards in 1999. It also won the prestigious Rouben Mamoulian Award at the Sydney Film Festival, 1999.
In 2002 Peter co-produced Schtick Happens which took out the prize for best Documentary at the St Kilda Film Festival 2002. Peter has also been the Victorian Editor and Manager of if magazine. Also in 2002 Peter Produced the ‘Not at Home’ project for Big H’art – a community, cultural development project sponsored by the City of Melbourne.
In 2005 Peter collaborated with director Lawrence Johnston to produce the half hour documentary for SBS titled The Dream Of Love. In 2006 Peter completed production on a 15 minute short drama called William, directed by Eron Sheean (Bing, Fish) and funded by the AFC and Film Victoria. The film screened at the 2006 Melbourne International Film Festival and Flickerfest 2007. William had its international premiere at Sundance 2007 and went on to win two awards at the Montreal First People's Festival - Terres En Vues - LAND InSIGHTS including the Grand Jury Prize.
Completed in 2010 in conjunction with Poppy Shmith, Peter co-directed and co-produced feature length documentary Not So Straight for Family Planning Victoria about the issues facing same-sex attracted youth.
Peter's next project was feature documentary The Triangle Wars (co-produced with Lizzette Atkins - Circe Films and directed by Rosie Jones and funded by Screen Australia, Film Victoria and a successful recipient of the MIFF Premiere Fund) which had its world premiere at the 2011 Melbourne International Film Festival!
The Triangle Wars also won best Australian documentary at the inaugural Antenna International Documentary Festival. In 2014 - 2015 Peter collaborated with Thomas Baricevic on the short film Hope City. Peter is also currently serving as the Head of Film & Television at JMC Academy – Melbourne.
Ror Da Poet: Majak
Antonita Kuol: Awak
Steve Mouzakis: Mr Christou
Daniela Farinacci: Immigration Officer
Bayak Joseph: Young Majak
Awak Kongor: Mary
Funders: City of Melbourne
Production Company/Distributor: Jackson Black Films
Release date: May 2015
Where can I watch it?
The short film will be screening at the Palm Springs International ShortFEST – Best of St Kilda Film Festival session.
June 24, 2016 10:30 AM
2300 E Baristo Rd
Palm Springs, CA 92262