WHEN two violent murders occurred within days of each other, one got a lot more national media attention and Darren Dale wants to know why.
Jill Meagher was raped and murdered in the inner-city Melbourne suburb of Brunswick on September 22, 2012 by Adrian Ernest Bayley. Her initial disappearance and ultimate murder caused a whirlwind on social media and media outlets from all over the world reported on the story.
[showads ad=MREC] On September 30, a week after her body was found around 30,000 people turned out to march down Sydney Rd, Brunswick in her honour.
A day before that huge march, Sydney gay man Ahmed Ghoniem was found dead in his apartment with multiple stab wounds and blunt trauma injuries. His apartment had been allegedly set alight.
“I was at the ATM the next day and heard people talking about a gay man that had been killed near there,” said Dale, managing director of Blackfella Films.
“There was a murder in my area… as a gay man there was a stark difference to the way one was treated.
“It was of course covered in the Star Observer and was only give some inches in a side column in the Sydney Morning Herald.”
While Ghoniem’s death remains unsolved and it’s not clear whether he was the victim of a hate crime, it inspired Dale to look back at the epidemic of violent bashings and murders of gay men in Sydney in the late 80’s and early 90’s.
SBS announced last week it would develop a multi-platform programming event in conjunction with Blackfella Films to look at the violence against gay men during that time in Sydney.
Deep Water will tell the story of these men in a four-part drama series, a feature documentary and an online prequel series produced by Dale and written by Jacob Hickey.
Shedding the light on what happened to the victims was a natural fit for Blackfella Films who produced Redfern Now and First Contact.
“The work we’ve (Blackfella Films) done has been around social issues. What they’ve realised is they (SBS) can reach more people when there’s an event around something and exploring a topic or a theme.”
The announcement of the multi-platform project has not been without controversy.
Filmmaker and former Star Observer journalist, Serkan Ozturk has been working on a documentary called Killing Off the Beat and has similar themes to Deep Water since January 2014.
He said he was devastated to learn Blackfella Films had received funding from Screen Australia for the project after his application for funding was denied.
“I had the idea after the 2013 Mardi Gras when I broke the story of a young guy being beaten by police,” he said.
“I’ve recorded about 30 interviews already and we’re close to the editing stage.”
Ozturk said he’s not sure if the Blackfella Films team plagiarised his idea or research but claims he was in talks with SBS journalist Patrick Abboud to develop his documentary and that Blackfella Films researcher Benjamin Law knew about the project because he had ‘liked’ the Killing Off the Beat‘s Facebook page.
“I’d like to set up a meeting with Blackfella (Films) and SBS so they can look me in the eye and tell me they didn’t copy my idea,” he said.
“We’ve got lawyers looking into this… they’re trying to ruin my thunder a bit.”
Dale denies any accusations of plagiarism saying he only became aware of Ozturk’s documentary around June this year and had the original idea for Deep Water about three years ago.
“We’ll strongly refute that (plagiarism). Blackfella Films has been around a long time and we have integrity,” he said.
“This stuff (violence against gay men in Sydney) has been in the press for a very long time and we had another colleague who said they were developing something in that space as well.”
Deep Water researcher Benjamin Law said the project is due to be released in 2016 and the production team are still looking for men from that time who may have been victims of a hate crime to tell their story.
“We want to make the public aware we are making a documentary and to reach out to gay men,” he said.
“We are talking to a lot of people and want to get a sense of how many men who didn’t report it and why.”[showads ad=FOOT]