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Canberra On Film: Dark and Intense

Helena Game

Canberra might not strike you as a cinematic dream location for filmmakers.

But once you’ve seen Lake George transformed into a nuclear wasteland in Blue World Order or the halls of Parliament House become the fodder of intrigue in Secret City you’ll have second thoughts.

The Canberra International Film Festival is celebrating its 20th anniversary, and it is jam-packed with must-see local films this year.

One such film is Embedded, the intense directorial debut from playwright Stephen Sewell. The film centres on Frank, (Nick Barkla) whose work as a foreign correspondent has left him struggling, and Madaline, (Laura Gordon) who he meets at a World Bank conference. What transpires is a dark, intensely sexual connection between the two that becomes potentially dangerous as they descend deeper into it.

Laura, who grew up in Canberra, says that while shooting Embedded was challenging due to its short time-frame and large amount of dialogue, working with Sewell was something she and Nick (who is her husband in real life) had been keen to do.

“I was excited to work with Stephen because I had long admired him as a writer, [and] we’d both been drawn to Stephen’s play Miranda, which the film is based on.

“When he approached us to work with him on the film adaptation, we jumped at it.”

Laura explains that the film has distinctly global themes. The city that it is set in is never revealed, and international politics has a strong presence.

Laura’s connection to her hometown is still strong. Last year she came back to film Joe Cinque’s Consolation, a film about the death of Joe Cinque in Canberra in 1997, which was selected for this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.

“It was always a dream of mine to return to Canberra to film something,” says Laura. “To now have a film in the Canberra Film Festival feels like icing on the cake…It’s exciting to see more and more projects filming here.

“I always love coming home to Canberra.”

Laura isn’t the only local link within the Canberra International Film Festival for their 2016 season. Canberran Samara Weaving, best known for playing Indi Walker on Home and Away, stars in psychological thriller Bad Girl which sees her entering the life of adopted ‘Bad Girl’ Amy, whose life begins to quickly spin out of control.

A little closer to home, CIFF is also premiering ‘Canberra Story’ Footprints On Our Land, which chronicles the life of Ngunnawal elder Aunty Agnes Shea. Aunty Agnes has delivered hundreds of Welcome to Countries across Canberra in her time as an elder, and Canberrans whose lives she has touched will be fascinated to learn her story.

Last, but by no means least, the grunt and glamour of Mad Max-esque dystopia comes to Black Mountain Tower in sci-fi epic Blue World Order.

When a self-appointed government’s nefarious attempt to wipe out a virus gives them the ability to control the decimated population, one man remains immune and his unconscious daughter holds the key to humanity’s survival.

Filmed entirely in Canberra and using local talent where possible, Blue World Order reinforces the fact that the Canberran film scene is continuing from strength to strength. While the CIFF screening of Blue World Order is sold out, there will be future screenings in Canberra.

the essentials

What: The Canberra International Film Festival
Where: National Film and Sound Archive, McCoy Circuit, Acton
When: 27 October – 6 November 2016
Find more information and book your tickets here:


Helena Game

Helena is a wannabe journalist studying Communications and Journalism at the University of Canberra. Canberra born and bred, she is hopelessly in love with writing, stories and travel. She recently wrote her way around Japan for a creative writing study tour, and spent another two weeks in the Middle East on a journalism exchange, both of which have left her with a proper case of the post-travel blues. While she plots her next adventure, Helena is hoping to gain as much industry experience as humanly possible, and somehow finish her degree at the same time. More about the Author

  • Ms Jennifer

    I am already going to see “Joe Cliques Consolution” and “Blue World Order” I know people who have roles (or extra) in these films. I now will add “Aunty Agnes Shea’s film to my list having met and known of Aunty Agnes for around 25 years.
    Thank you for highlighting Canberras wondering International Film Festival and the talent we have in this gorgeous city!!

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