The Event: Fell Premiere at Melbourne International Film Festival
With a plotline that revolves around the insular Victorian logging industry, Fell, the directorial debut from Kasimir Burgess, is a striking addition to this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival.
No doubt it’s an attention-getting movie: a deft script is tightly wound by Kasimir and writing partner, Natasha Pincus, its focus one man’s journey through the grief of losing a child and his subsequent plans for revenge all set within the controversial framework of Australia’s logging industry.
It’s Makers good fortune to get up close and personal with Kasimir, along with producer Mary Minas, 2nd assistant camera Jensen Cope and actor Daniel Henshall, on a day trip to revisit some of the lush filming locations in the nearby Yarra Valley. With principle filming having taken place just beyond Warburton and its surrounds, we – along with the cast and crew – return to ground zero in an effort to gain insight in to the film and those behind it.
Kasimir: “[The Yarra Valley] is a dramatic setting and a place where the continuing cycle of life and death is ever present. There are primal themes of rotting and regeneration happening over and over that reflects the nature of our story. That idea of a redemptive and necessary death.”
Fell revolves around the characters of Thomas (Matt Nable), a sharp-suited city dweller whose daughter is killed after being hit by a logging truck. Logger Luke (Henshall) flees the scene of the crime, but is caught and faces jail time. Thomas retrains as a logger, infiltrating the close-knit community with the idea of getting revenge on the man who killed his daughter.
Though the plotline could read as melodramatic, Fell is a subtle and nuanced piece, brought to life in the skilled hands of Kasimir, whose background in short film has certainly shaped the way he approached his feature length debut. The dialogue is minimal; instead the film focuses on body language, the hypnotizing surrounds and sound to tell its dramatic story.
Kasimir: “The storyline was so emotionally epic and the setting in the logging industry and the violence that surrounds it helped to externalize a lot of what our characters were going through internally, in terms of trauma, loss and grief. Everything was elemental; from the sound of the actors breathing, we hear their heartbeats, we hear the wind. I’ve always listened to characters breath in film, in fact I may have an unhealthy obsession with it (laughter) it feels very expressive to me. ”
Historically, the Australian film industry has excelled in production of films set in the bush (Picnic At Hanging Rock, The Man From Snowy River), and Fell is no exception to this rule.
Boarding a mini bus bound for the Yarra Valley, the director explains to Makers how he found the principle setting for the film.
Kasimir: “My girlfriend suggested that I go and check out Warburton and I fell in love quite quickly. It was probably a year and a half before we started filming but I’d started to look for rather specific locations and angles. I brought Marden [Dean, Director of Photography] out there and we both became very excited. Most of our pre-production ended up happening in the car while we were driving around looking for locations.”
Over a delicious lunch at Rochford winery, Kasimir and actor Daniel Henshall expand on their time spent with the local logging community. Kasimir explains that the crew spent the six months prior to filming getting to know the men who live and work around Warbuton,
Kasimir: “We had a hand opening some doors into the local community and it was a matter of observing and taking away details. I’d come back to Tash (Sic) with photos that I’d covertly taken and stories of this and that, that we ended up incorporating into the story to bring as much authenticity as we could to the world.”
Daniel: “The actor logging crew also spent time out in the area where they fell trees. We got to know the loggers and gained a great insight as to who they are and where they come from, it was good fun.”
Fell had its world premier at the recent Sydney Film Festival, where it opened to excellent reviews. Much hype has also surrounded the groundbreaking decision by Minas and veteran Australian producer John Maynard to simultaneously stream the film for an online audience at the same time that it has broader release in Australian cinemas.
During the Sydney Film Festival, producer Maynard told the ABC Arts program, “the world premiere of Fell via the internet is a game-changer in a multi-screen world. It’s democratic, it’s inclusive and it’s about time.”
Fell is due for broader release this Thursday, 21st August.
Story: Janey Umback
Photos: Samantha Hogan