In the documentary Red Sunday community members of rural far east Gippsland, Victoria, Australia recount their experiences regarding the devastating 2014 bushfires, which lasted around 70 long, unpredictable, and traumatic days.
Interview with Producer Skantha Rajahn Thirugnanam
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
Thank you. I met Siloh Cairns, the director, writer and co-editor of our film, in 2016 September working on an independent music video. We both were young filmmakers with a shared interest for nature and the environment. Siloh was very interested in making a documentary about the bushfires that blazed through East Gippsland in 2014 and how it affected the communities of Bonang, Tubbut and Goongerah as well as the natural habitat in those areas. I was a little puzzled about how much area was affected, so I took a trip with her the following month to Orbost to see the area and meet the people. There I met with Lorelee Cockerill, a local resident, and Birgit Schaedler, a mental health nurse of the area. They also wanted to bring to light the mental and emotional trauma that still affects the families and residents until today. Birgit was meeting residents that were affected and trying a form of therapy called 'Narrative Therapy'. I was really moved by her efforts and the stories from some of the victims that I felt it would be an interesting eye-opening story to tell. However, the one thing that hooked me to make this film is the fact that every resident kept telling me they felt abandoned but how they came together as a community to fight these fires for 70 days straight side by side and defended their properties simply blew me away. I still remain amazed by how sustainable the communities are with very little resources.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
This film gives privileged insight into the emotional and mental feelings of the victims during the fires. The stories they share, the pictures and video they took during the blazing fires will put you the audience member into a sense of shocked disbelief.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
This film has a focus on community spirit, resilience and environmental awareness that I hope every community can empathise with through my film. Healing through a community is certainly focused on this film but also understanding how trauma affects everyone the same.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
We started working on the script on November 2016. The Director and I both worked on the treatment. We planned to interview as many residents from the area but pick five stories. We had already had a chat with a few families before shooting but we were not sure which stories to tell. Once we started filming in February 2017, we realised that everyone felt the same way and they all needed to be heard. We then went back to our original treatment and reworked it. Siloh than wen back to America and worked on the edit. Our story that we had is still the same but having all those participants on film adds to the realism of a community.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
We have screened the film at the local town hall in Goongerah in February 2018 to all the participants of the film. I would say all the community members were very pleased with the film. They were actually kind of relieved to find out that everyone in the community felt the same way and were not shy to share their feelings.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
Yes! 100% surprised! I was very nervous that the participants would not enjoy the film but they all really liked it. I was very moved on how supportive this community was with the film and my team.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
I hope to get more views and have other film festivals interested in our films.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
We need producers, film festival directors and journalist to help get our film more coverage as there are a lot of communities that go through traumatic experiences. I feel this story could help them in their healing process and give them a chance to share their stories.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
I feel this story could help them in their healing process and could to share their stories. I would love to have people talking about how this film moved them to help their own community with their traumatic experiences.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
What is post-traumatic growth?
Would you like to add anything else?
I want to thank the people of the community of Tubbut, Goongerah and Bonang for trusting me with their story. I would also like to thank the many supporters who helped and pushed us forward to make this film. Lastly, if you are a true Blue Victorian, you definitely have to watch this film. I'm sure you will see and hear a few things that will surprise you.
What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?
I'm currently working on a documentary about environmental sustainability, in particular, the plastic problem that is facing some of the rural communities in Malaysia. I'm following the Biji-Biji Initiative journey as they fight an uphill battle to get Malaysians to not just start thinking green but to also start taking action to make it green.
Interview: June 2019
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series, music video, women's films, LGBTQIA+, POC, First Nations, scifi, supernatural, horror, world cinema. 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
Red Sunday: Healing Through Narrative Therapy
In the documentary; Red Sunday, community members of rural far east Gippsland, Victoria, Australia recount their experiences regarding the devastating 2014 bushfires, which lasted around 70 long, unpredictable, and traumatic days.
Director: Hannah( Siloh) Cairns
Producer: Skantha Rajahn Thirugnanam
Writer: Hannah (Siloh) Cairns
About the writer, director and producer:
HANNAH CAIRNS is a photographer by profession and this is her first time directing and writing a feature documentary. She is from America but has spent a lot of time with the local community members of Bonang and Goongerah. As a result of this, Hannah held workshops across Tubbut, Bonang and Goongerah prior to filming, to teach community members skills involved in filming/production. In this way, even community members who did not want their stories told could have input into the project.
SKANTHA is a fresh film graduate from SAE Melbourne Institute. Hailing from Malaysia, Skantha was pursuing a career in medicine before switching to his passion for storytelling. Skantha has worked for various student short films and film departments. This will be his debut feature film and his first film to get accepted into a film festival.
Key cast: Jeannie Holker, Gillian Edmiston, Ruth Hanson, Dick Johnstone, Chris Stephenson,Shaun McDonell, India McDonell, Sinead McDonell, Lorelee Cockerill, Shelly, Mclaren, Josh Willoughby, Matysa Willoughby, Dala Willoughby, Keith Bradshaw, Jamie Antonio, John Flynn, Rena Gaborov, Andrew Bennett, Tina Brown, Jill Redwood, ButterflyJohn Auer, Sharon Small, Emily Small, Tony Bunt, Lynette Townsend, Bob Mcilroy,Fiona Mcilroy, Robert Bleacher, Dianne Bleacher, Peter Adams, Sandy Cameron, Helen Neven, Alan Neven, Philip Neven, Patrizia Neven, Deb Foskey
Looking for: distributors, film festival directors, journalists
Hashtags used: #redsundayhealing #redsunday #documentary #docofilm #indiefilm #forestfires #bushfires #melbourne
Funders: Within Australia, Orbost Regional Health, East Gippsland Shire Council and Self-funded
Where can I watch it next and in the coming month? Melbourne on the 22nd of July, hop on down to Backlot Cinema at 6pm to see our first official screening