THE demand to catch Downriver at this year’s Mardi Gras Film Festival (MGFF) has been so huge the film is close to selling out.

The intense drama has generated a lot of buzz on the festival circuit scene, so making the Australian film a feature at MGFF this year was inevitable.

Set in country Australia, Downriver tells the story of James — played by Reef Ireland in a breakout performance — who has recently been freed from detention after being convicted for the murder of a child while he was young boy.

His patchy memory of the crime leads him back to the caravan park at which it occurred and into the life of the star witness, his childhood friend and possible partner-in-crime, Anthony (Tom Green).

To complicate his search for the truth, James becomes embroiled in a love triangle between himself, Anthony and the holidaying Damien (Charles Grounds).

Downriver is one of the latest films to join a growing trend in queer cinema, where the character’s sexuality is incidental and not integral to the story.

“Queer films in the 80s and 90s were the films that really inspired me and they weren’t necessarily a queer genre,” Downriver director and screenwriter Grant Scicluna said.

“They were bigger stories outside the mainstream and the sexuality of the characters wasn’t what we were used to seeing.

“But the mainstream idea of queer film is the themes seem to be fighting homophobia, coming out and identity… and queer film has been taken over by mainstream Hollywood.

“So it doesn’t surprise me the little, battling queer filmmakers and are going back to that trend.”

Scicluna came up with the concept for the film when he had to complete an assignment for his screenwriting course in Melbourne 10 years ago.

The script stayed with him over that period, where on occasion he would bring it back out to develop. Had it not been for the push of his producer Jannine Barnes, he might never have gone through with making it.

“I was certainly not convinced it was ever going to happen,” Scicluna said.

“I worked with a producer (Barnes) who was unfailingly convinced it would, she kept it alive and got it across the line and funded.

“It’s crucial to have someone stand beside you saying: ‘I’m never going to give up on it’.”

Downriver. Photo: Supplied

An intimate scene from Downriver. (Photo: Supplied)

Downriver will make its Sydney debut at MGFF after screenings in Toronto, Brisbane and Melbourne where it had different reactions from its audiences.

“International audiences have surprised me, they go with things some Australians have balked on, (such as) the queerness,” Scicluna said.

“In my films there’s a lot of men and a lot of boys, they are a study of masculinity. In Australia I’ve had people say: ‘there was so many and they were all gay’, sometimes even gay people say it to me.

“I’m presenting my world which is not mainstream.”

While Scicluna feels proud of his first feature film, he was most blown away by the performance of Reef Ireland, who has already picked up an acting award at the Asia Pacific Screen Award for his role in Downriver.

“He was the only Australian nominated for acting,” Scicluna said.

 “I’ve known him for a few years, there’s a quality to Reef… there is an unspoken and emotional intelligence he has.

“I’m just happy with [his] performance.”

Downriver will screen at MGFF, Saturday February 27, 7pm, Event Cinemas, George St.

DOWNRIVER TRAILER from HappeningFilms on Vimeo.

 

MGFF details and tickets are available here.

The Star Observer is a proud media partner of the Mardi Gras Film Festival.

Click here to read all of the Star Observer’s coverage of MGFF

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