Writer-director Roderick MacKay’s debut feature The Furnace, an 1890s drama set during the gold rush in Western Australia, will have its world premiere in the Horizons section of the 77th Venice Film Festival.
Produced by Timothy White (I Am Mother) and Tenille Kennedy (H is for Happiness), the film follows Egyptian actor Ahmed Malek as a young Afghan cameleer who partners with Mal, a mysterious bushman (David Wenham) on the run with two Crown-marked gold bars.
Together the unlikely pair must outwit a zealous police sergeant and his troopers in a race to reach a secret furnace – the one place where they can safely reset the bars to remove the mark of the Crown.
The cast includes Jay Ryan (It: Chapter 2, Top of the Lake), Erik Thomson (The Luminaries), Baykali Ganambarr (The Nightingale), Trevor Jamieson (Storm Boy), Mahesh Jadu (The Witcher) and Samson Coulter (Breath).
“I’m thrilled at this opportunity for the film to have its world premiere at such a renowned festival,” MacKay said. “We set out to shine a light on a crucial yet little known chapter of Australia’s history, celebrating the cultural diversity of our early pioneers.
“It was so rewarding to work with our talented and diverse cast, in particular Ahmed Malek, whose heartfelt performance so strongly anchors the story.”
Funded by Screen Australia, Screenwest and Lotterywest and the Western Australian Regional Film Fund, the film will be released in Australasia by Umbrella Entertainment, probably in 2021; Arclight Films handles worldwide sales.
Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason said: “We are proud to see The Furnace represent our screen industry on the world stage and showcase a fascinating part of our history alongside the natural beauty of Western Australia.”
Screenwest CEO Willie Rowe added: “This is a fantastic outcome for The Furnace team. It’s great to see Western Australian stories and creatives being celebrated and recognised at the highest level and being shared with the world, at such a festival like Venice.”
The Venice Film Festival runs from September 2-12. The film was shot late last year on Yamatji Badimia country in Mount Magnet and Yamatji Nanda country in Kalbarri.
The filmmakers conducted extensive research which included consultation with the Badimia community, Sikh and Islamic experts in addition to Cantonese, Pashto and Punjabi language consultants.
Key crew include DOPs Mick McDermott and Bonnie Elliott, production designer Clayton Jauncey, costume designer Lisa Gunning Galea, editor Merlin Eden and casting director Nikki Barrett.
VENEZIA 77 – COMPETITION
In Between Dying, dir: Hilal Baydarov
Le Sorelle Macaluso, dir: Emma Dante
The World To Come, dir: Mona Fastvold
Nuevo Orden, dir: Michel Franco
Lovers, dir: Nicole Garcia
Laila in Haifa, dir: Amos Gitai
Dear Comrades, dir: Andrei Konchalovsky
Wife Of A Spy, dir: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Sun Children, dir: Majid Majidi
Pieces Of A Woman, dir: Kornel Mundruczo
Miss Marx, dir: Susanna Nicchiarelli
Padrenostro, dir: Claudio Noce
Notturno, dir: Gianfranco Rosi
Never Gonna Snow Again, dirs: Malgorzata Szumowska, Michal Englert
The Disciple, dir: Chaitanya Tamhane
And Tomorrow The Entire World, dir: Julia Von Heinz
Quo Vadis, Aida?, dir: Jasmila Zbanic
Nomadland, dir: Chloé Zhao
Apples, dir: Christos Nikou (Opening film)
La Troisième Guerre, dir: Giovanni Aloi
Milestone, dir: Ivan Ayr
The Wasteland, dir: Ahmad Bahrami
The Man Who Sold His Skin, dir: Kaouther Ben Hania
I Predatori, dir: Pietro Castellitto
Mainstream, dir: Gia Coppola
Genus Pan, dir: Lav Diaz
Zanka Contact, dir: Ismael El Iraki
Guerra E Pace, dirs: Martina Parenti, Massimo D’Anolfi
La Nuit Des Rois, dir: Philippe Lacôte
The Furnace, dir: Roderick MacKay
Careless Crime, dir: Shahram Mokri
Gaza Mon Amour, dirs: Tarzan Nasser, Arab Nasser
Selva Tragica, dir: Yulene Olaizola
Nowhere Special, dir: Uberto Pasolini
Listen, dir: Ana Rocha de Sousa
The Best Is Yet To Come, dir: Wang Jing
Yellow Cat, dir: Adilkhan Yerzhanov