DOP Bonnie Elliott and writer-director Partho Sen-Gupta on the set of ‘Slam.’
When a young Australian girl of Palestinian origin disappears the night after her slam poetry performance, the media runs stories which suggest she is a home-grown radical who went to Syria to join Islamic terrorists.
Her mother refuses to believe the reports and her brother, who was estranged from the family, is dragged back into a world he thought he had escaped.
That’s the premise of writer-director Partho Sen-Gupta’s thriller Slam, which is now shooting in Sydney’s Western suburbs.
Danielle Horvat plays Ameena, the missing girl, with Adam Bakri (who starred in the Oscar-nominated Omar) as her brother Ricky and Lebanese-born, Paris-based Darina Al Joundi as their mother Rana.
Rachael Blake plays Joanne, the cop who investigates the case while she tries to cope with the grief of losing her son, an Australian soldier who was killed in Afghanistan. Rebecca Breeds plays Ricky’s wife Sally.
The Indian-born Sen-Gupta migrated to Australia with his wife five years ago after living in Paris for 16 years.
Interviewed on the set in a suburban house in Strathfield, the filmmaker tells IF he was inspired to write Slam two years ago as a social drama which looks at such themes as assimilation and the power of the media.
He waited until he had completed his second film, Sunrise, and he felt he had lived long enough in Australia to understand the culture. A psychological drama set in Mumbai, Sunrise centred on the anguish and guilt of a police inspector whose young daughter had gone missing.
Sen-Gupta showed the Slam script to producer Michael Wrenn, whom he had met at the Sydney Film Festival, and developed the project at the Cinemart and Berlinale co-production markets in 2016.
Wrenn originally intended to make the film as an Australian production in league with Perth-based producer Tennille Kennedy, who was production manager of Ben Elton’s Three Summers, produced by Wrenn and Sue Taylor.
It became a co-production with French producer Marc Irmer of Dolce Vita Films with the support of CNC’s Cinémas du Monde, Screen Australia and Screenwest.
Wrenn hired Doc & Film International to handle international sales due to the Paris-based company’s expertise in representing documentaries and films that address social issues. Bonsai Films is the Australian distributor.
The DOP is Bonnie Elliott, who shot Stan’s Romper Stomper, Matchbox Pictures’ Seven Types of Ambiguity and Hunters.
The director (whose 2004 debut film Let the Wind Blow followed two friends in Mumbai as nuclear tensions between India and Pakistan escalated), contacted Bakri, who lives in New York, via Omar director Hany Abu-Assad, and he came on board after a Skype chat.
His character Ricky changed his Arabic first name and moved to the inner city to start life afresh with his wife but is forced to make some difficult decisions after his sister vanishes.
Sen-Gupta met with Al Joundi in Paris. She tells IF she was so impressed with the director’s passion and vision she signed on before reading the script. She describes Rana as a woman who is fiercely protective of her daughter and is consumed by pain and grief after she disappears.