The ugly Cronulla race riots in southern Sydney in 2005 may seem an unlikely source of humour but that’s the backdrop of writer-director Abe Forsythe’s latest film.

Set during the aftermath of the riots, the black comedy looks at two carloads of hotheads from both sides of the fight who are destined to collide.

“The narrative mines comedy through the heavy drama,” Forsythe told IF on Thursday on the last day of a six-week shoot. “The humour turns on how absurd the situations were and how they spiralled out of control. It doesn’t let the audience off lightly.”

Forsythe began writing the screenplay five years ago and the project finally came together with producer Jodi Matterson and Greg Mclean as executive producer. Mclean had admired Ned, Abe’s directing debut in 2003, and the two had long wanted to work together.

The financiers are Screen Australia, Fulcrum Media, the producer offset and distribution guarantees from the Australian distributor Studiocanal and international sales agent Embankment.

The working title is Down Under, which the producer and director hate and will be jettisoned as soon as they come up with a better title.

The ensemble cast includes Hiding’s Lincoln Younes as one of the Lebanese teenagers and Alexander England (Gods of Egypt, Power Games: The Packer-Murdoch Story) and Damon Herriman (The Little Death, Justified) as boys from the Shire.

Marshall Napier (The Water Horse) plays the father of England’s character and David Field (Last Cab to Darwin, The Rover) is a drug dealer.

Forsythe is excited about the performance of newcomer Christopher Bunton as a character with Down’s syndrome. Bunton, who’s 22, has done acting classes at NIDA and participated in the Special Olympics in gymnastics.

“Of all the cast he gave the most consistent performance in really nailing his role,” says Forsythe.

The cast also includes Rahel Romahn (Underbelly: The Golden Mile, The Combination), Michael Denkha (The Combination, Stealth), Fayssal Bazzi (Crownies, Cedar Boys), Justin Rosniak (Animal Kingdom) and Harriet Dyer (Love Child, Janet King).

The DoP is Lachlan Milne, who had worked with Matterson in Peter Templeman’s Not Suitable for Children.

The aim is to release the film in December or January, around the time of the 10th anniversary of the Cronulla riots. “As a society I don’t think we’ve moved on from them,” says the director. “The film raises issues which I don’t think we talk about enough.”

Matterson was keen to work with Forsythe after admiring his directing efforts in TV and short films. “As a director he has been honing his craft for the last few years,” she says. “With this film he uses violence and comedy and underlying racial tensions to say something about an event which left a terrible stain."

Matterson has pulled off the remarkable feat of juggling her schedule to simultaneously produce Paul Currie’s romantic thriller 2.22.  Currie was due to start principal photography last October but that was delayed for casting reasons so the the two shoots overlapped for four weeks, leaving little time for sleep.

She credits 2.22’s line producer Barbara Gibbs with doing much of the heavy lifting on that production.

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