Entertainment

Film Short Cuts: 'Australia's Spotlight' takes on landmark sexual abuse case

It's been called "Australia's Spotlight".

Rachel Griffiths and Aden Young in <i>Don't Tell</i>.
Rachel Griffiths and Aden Young in Don't Tell.  

A film about a landmark sexual abuse case for damages against an Anglican school is shooting in Queensland with an impressive cast headed by Rachel Griffiths, Jack Thompson, Aden Young and Jacqueline McKenzie.

Director Tori Garrett calls Don't Tell a "riveting" courtroom drama that tells an important story that triggered new regulations and contributed towards the creation of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

"The material is so strong," Garrett says. "The stuff that we're talking about in the courtroom is straight from the court transcripts, so it's all word for word true."

Don't Tell is based on a book by lawyer Stephen Roche (Young), who represented a 22-year-old woman known only as Lyndal (Sara West) when she took action against Toowoomba Preparatory School in 2001.

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The school had denied she was sexually abused by a boarding house master, played by Gyton Grantley, a decade earlier. As a result of the case the Anglican Archdiocese of Brisbane paid her compensation of more than $800,000.

Griffiths plays a psychologist who counselled Lyndal, with Susie Porter and Martin Sacks as her parents, Thompson and McKenzie as barristers and Kim Knuckey as Archbishop Peter Hollingworth. Missy Higgins is working on a song for the film.

Garrett says the film tells a very different story from Spotlight, which won best picture at the most recent Oscars.

"That film was about journalists finding a story and the process they go through to expose paedophile priests," she says. "Ours is a survival story about a little girl and the courage she had to try and stop it happening.

"It's based on a similar theme – child sexual abuse – but it's a different story altogether."

The real life Lyndal has visited the set during the shoot in the Ipswich and Toowoomba areas.

"She's still very fragile but she's totally on board," Garrett says. "She wanted her story to be told. That's why she went to court."

Producer Scott Corfield says there was initial resistance to a film with a budget of more than $4 million before the issue of child sexual abuse became such a hot topic.

"A lot of the responses were that no one is going to want to watch this type of movie," he says. "That it's going to be too hard for an audience to watch.

"But Spotlight has come out and the issue is now front and centre. I think people want to see what it's like to be a survivor and what they're put through and how it affects them and their family."

Sara West in Don't Tell

Don'tTell#3.jpg

Sara West as Lyndal in Don't Tell.

Australian director's $100m hit

The news is not good on Australian director Craig Gillespie's The Finest Hours, the Disney ocean rescue movie that starred Casey Affleck and Chris Pine.

Variety reports that Disney chief executive Robert Iger expects the studio will take a loss of $US75 million ($100 million) on one of the studio's few recent flops.

Although the production cost has not been announced, the movie had substantial CGI work before making just over $US40 million at the box office worldwide.

Iger revealed the extent of the loss during an upbeat presentation on Disney's movies.

With Star Wars: The Force Awakens taking more than $US2 billion worldwide, the studio's results included a more than 30 per cent return on invested capital last year after more than 20 per cent the previous year.

He also said the prospects for this year were great after Zootopia passed Frozen to record Disney Animation's biggest-ever opening.

Since the acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm were completed, 25 out of 26 Disney movies have made money, with an average global box office of $US760 million. These striking results do not include ancillary revenue from consumer products, theme park attractions and games.

Sci-fi director aims for monster movie

?Still from the film Arrowhead ... ?Kye (Dan Mor) and robot Reef (voiced by Sean Micallef) are stranded on a desolate moon.?

Kye and Reef on Cliffs.jpeg

Arrowhead ... Kye (Dan Mor) and robot Reef (voiced by Shaun Micallef) are stranded on a desolate moon.

Having had surprising success with a home-grown sci-fi film Arrowhead – largely shot and edited in various Melbourne suburban homes and backyard sheds – writer-director Jesse O'Brien is looking to make his second film.

And the writer-director is hoping to have more than the $180,000 budget, put up by the now defunct pay channel TV1, of his first one.

After distributor StudioCanal picked up Arrowhead for digital and DVD release in June, on top of similar releases in Britain, Germany, Japan and the Middle East, O'Brien wants to shoot a monster film later this year.

"It's about a bunch of kids left alone on a tropical island after the apocalypse takes all the adults away," he says."It's a fun creature feature."

O'Brien's ambitions include shooting "a future detective movie" he has already scripted called Switchblade Electric.

"It's about a woman who's a cop who's got to hunt down cybernetically modified gangs," he says. "It's loosely inspired by the future version of Edinburgh where I lived for a while."

Spotlight kicks on after Oscar

Spotlight: From left, Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery and Brian d'Arcy James.

The Spotlight cast, (from left) Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery and Brian d'Arcy James.

Winning best picture and original screenplay at the Academy Awards has given Spotlight a healthy boost in Australian cinemas.

The topical drama bout the Boston Globe's investigation into the Catholic Church's cover-up of sexual abuse had a 94 per cent increase in its takings on the weekend – adding $455,000 to reach $4.4 million.

Deadpool stayed on top of the box office for the fourth consecutive weekend with another $2.6 million to reach an unexpectedly strong $37.2 million.

The Maggie Smith comedy The Lady In the Van, showed the strength of the over-50s audience in opening well in second place with $2 million.

Three films with Australian directors struggled: Alex Proyas' Gods of Egypt (another $552,000 to reach $1.7 million), John Hillcoat's Triple Nine (opening with $454,000) and Craig Gillespie's Disney disappointment The Finest Hours (opening with $238,000).

Another mountain documentary for Peedom

Sherpas training. Film: Sherpa.

Sherpas training in Sherpa.

With her BAFTA-nominated documentary Sherpa opening in cinemas on March 31, Australian director Jennifer Peedom is already deep into editing her next film.

Called Mountain, it is a collaboration with the Australian Chamber Orchestra that sets music to high-altitude scenes that is likely to make its debut at the Sydney Film Festival next year.

"It's a more universal story," Peedom says. "It's not about climbing. It's not about any one mountain.

"It's exploring why mountains have this tremendous pull over us and how that revolution in perception has come to be: just 300 years ago, they were considered useless obstructions and warts on the landscape."

Mountain, which Peedom says uses "the best bar none mountain footage in the world", follows up the ACO's film-music collaboration on The Reef.

After years of mountain documentaries, Peedom has also started developing her first narrative feature.

Sherpa looks at the impact of the tragedy in which 16 sherpas were killed in an avalanche on Mount Everest in 2014.

Fincher series role for Torv

After playing the young wife of a timber miller owner in the Australian film The Daughter, which opens next week, Anna Torv has signed onto David Fincher's Netflix drama Mind Hunter.

The Australian actress, best known for The Secret Life of Us and Fringe, will play a psychologist in the series based on the book Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the series will centre around two FBI agents in 1979 who interview serial killers to solve current murders.

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