Continuing Star Observers look at some of the films making their Australian debut at the forthcoming Mardi Gras Film Festival, we spoke with acclaimed Australian filmmaker Kelly Walker who is currently in Los Angeles.

We began our conversation talking about how LA has been in lockdown since March 2020, and how lockdown has just become normal, for herself and other locals. And while she may not be able to make it to the Mardi Gras Film Festival, audiences will certainly feel the full weight of her movie My Fiona.

The film picks up after the suicide best friend to Jane (Jeanette Maus) finds purpose in helping her friend’s wife played by Corbin Reid with their seven-year-old son. In doing so, she becomes inadvertently drawn into an intimate relationship bound by grief that’s potentially catastrophic to the healing for all those involved.

Little did I know before our long-distance interview, that the film itself was inspired by a real-life tragedy that has shaped Walker’s life in ways, that her as a young girl could never have imagined.

When I was 12 my babysitter killed herself, it was very similar to what the character Fiona experiences. It was sudden, and there was no letter, and later as we would find she had been prescribed the wrong antidepressants. This affected my view on mental health and trusting doctors,” Walker explained. “Then years later, the same exact thing happened to my brother’s friend who jumped from a building, no note and the wrong antidepressants.

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 Taking us back to this time in Walkers life, the filmmaker has more fonder memories, particularly of how, at this young age, her burgeoning interest in filmmaking had already taken off.

When I was 12 I had a best friend and we would make full length films together, we would do one a year. I got professional software for my 13th birthday, my parents were relieved because instead of running around being naughty I was just making these movies. But me and my friend parted ways and I didn’t know how to do what we did together alone, a lot of that is explored in this film. I then spent some time in acting and then sometime in my 20s I got back into making shorts and producing. I found I was much more creatively fulfilled doing that than any of the acting jobs I was doing.”

Since then, Walker has had multiple short films in the festival circuit, most notably The Brownlist, which had a successful festival run, including multiple Oscar qualifiers and the Jury Award for Best Short Film at Bentonville Film Festival. Her latest script, Vice Versa, the real story of Edythe Eyde – the woman that created the first magazine for lesbians – is in the early stages of development.

Returning our attentions to My Fiona, Walker continues our interview by saying that they “ended up writing this movie in hopes to start a conversation, not just about mental health and suicide, but also the whole sexuality aspect too. I’m bisexual, I’m married to a man, but I’ve been in relationship with women and I’ve been in relationship with men. What this film explores is that its ok not to label. To be ok with who you are, without all the excess around you. It’s through this film I came out as bisexual.

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 I definitely think I use film as a way to figure out whatever I am troubled by, I’m less interested in making things purely for entertainment. I do think after COVID we are going to see a lot more stories with a lot more heart and vulnerability, it’s not going to be like before because we don’t have all the time in the world and will be a lot more cautious with the time we have.”

Pausing for a brief moment, Walker adds that tragically that the actress who plays Jane in the film, Jeanette Maus, passed away just three weeks ago.

“We knew each other for six or seven years and she was a huge part of my life. The point of mentioning that, already in these early stages of my grief, I’m watching her on screen, and she is us, we are literally experiencing what she is showing us in the film.

“I always hoped this film would help people going through things like this, but now to be the person on the receiving end, I wish I never got to be this person. I just so hope that it gets to help other people to be ok with the messiness and the ugliness of grief.”

My Fiona is screening on February 23 and on demand, for more info.

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