The bulk of attention that has gone towards Kim Farrant’s “Strangerland” has focused on the gritty Nicole Kidman turn at its center. But the Aussie filmmaker’s rigorous cinematic methods merit a glance or two, as well. Farrant grew up in a “radical, forward-thinking” household in which expression and openness were principally encouraged. She brings that approach to “Strangerland,” a dark and unsparing family tragedy that cuts bone-deep. A jittery, dust-clouded visual style and an uncompromising thematic vision should allow the director’s work to stand out in this star-studded production.
What’s your film about in 140 characters or less?
It’s about a couple, the
Parkers (Nicole Kidman and Joseph Fiennes) who move to a remote Australian
desert town, soon after their two teenage kids go missing before a massive dust
storm. With the town suddenly shrouded in a wall of dust, the townsfolk band
together to search for the children lead by local cop David Rae (Hugo Weaving).
As the search continues, Rae begins to unravel the family’s secrets as to why
they so abruptly left the previous town. Suspicion is cast, rumors spread and
hysteria sees people turn on each other, including the Parkers. With scorching
temperatures rising and time running out to find the kids before they perish,
the Parkers are pushed to the edge as they struggle to cope with the terrifying
uncertainty of their children’s fate.
Now what’s it REALLY about?
about how we cope when life sideswipes us and in this case, I think it’s every
parent’s worst nightmare – their kids going missing. It is about what we do
when we find ourselves completely out of control… with nothing to hold onto.
It looks at the behaviors that surface when we can no longer maintain our
public persona as our greatest fears take hold and our deepest needs drive us
to extremities. People deny, avoid, drink, smoke, fuck, blame others, become
violent and crumble… It also explores how nature is an all- powerful,
unstoppable force, in this case, the endless and brutal Australian desert,
which plunges the parents deeper into the unknown as they struggle to navigate
their way through this strange, isolating and unforgiving terrain.
Tell us briefly about yourself.
Hmm… I’m the daughter of a shrink and a counselor. Intense, I
know, but I am completely grateful that I grew up in such a radical, forward-thinking
household (we had a red padded soundproof cell in our house for primal
screaming which I did from the age of two) in a family that was all about
expressing ones feelings and going into the deeper more uncomfortable places
within ourselves and with others… And that’s what I’m most excited about and
feel called to do… to get to the raw truth of a person… no matter what it
takes… because that’s where the gold lies. Be it in an actor, in a real
person in a documentary or just in people that I meet in life. I trained as an
actor in LA and Australia, then as a director at film school (AFTRS) in Sydney,
then have been making documentaries, network TV, commercials and short dramas
ever since. I also ran men’s public forums for a few years to discover what men
really think about… Wow now that was interesting…
Biggest challenge in completing this film?
Getting the film financed
was hard because the script was so starkly confronting and it pushed people’s
buttons. Gotta love that! It took a LONG time to get the film up so keeping my
faith was also hard at times but I so loved this story and what it was
exploring that I just wouldn’t give up. Some people have said to me, “Wow
thirteen years in the making from start to finish – you’re so tenacious!”
“No,” I say, “Filmmakers are crazy!”
What do you want Sundance audiences to take away from your film?
I want them to feel
shaken… unearthed… uneasy… and therefore inspired to move out of their
comfort zone. And to look inside at what unnerves them… what does or would
rattle them to their very core? What makes them act out in ways they can’t
fathom… or that they judge… or feel shame about… and ultimately, I want
them to feel compassion and understanding for themselves and others for how we
all navigate differently the painful sharp edges of life… I also want them to
take away the names Meyne Wyatt and Lisa Flanagan, the two incredible
Aboriginal actors in our film that can do any accent and play characters from
other countries. What talent!! And take away a copy of our incredible
soundtrack by our composer Keefus Ciancia.
Any films inspire you?
John Cassavettes’s “A
Woman Under The Influence,” Sean Penn’s “The Indian Runner,” Thomas
Vinterberg’s “Festen” (The Celebration), Leos Carax “Les Amants
Du Pont Neuf,” Atom Egoyan’s “The Sweet Hereafter,” Peter Weir’s
“Picnic at Hanging Rock,” Thomas Vinterberg’s “The Hunt,”
Susanne Bier’s “Open Hearts,” Lars Von Trier’s “Breaking the
Waves”– I’m a big fan of Danish cinema.
I’ve just moved to LA… So
a new life! I have two TV series I’m developing and a new feature and I’m also
reading lots of scripts.
What cameras did you shoot on?
Alexa Digital at 2K.
Did you crowdfund?
Crowd-funding didn’t exist when we were first looking for funding for
this film. And in the end, we got lots of funding from our Australian
government funding bodies Screen Australia and Screen NSW. A big thank you to
them. Plus to all our international investors… Worldview, Wildbunch, The
Irish Film Board, and our local distributor Transmission.
Indiewire invited Sundance Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2015 festival. For profiles go HERE.