Here are her selections:
As It Is in Heaven
Swedish director Kay Pollak’s stirring comic drama was Zemiro’s first pick. It’s led by one of her favourite actors in the late, great Michael Nyqvist, who played investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo films.
“His was an awful loss, because I just find him an absolutely magnetic performer,” Zemiro says. “He plays a successful international conductor who has a breakdown and goes back to his childhood home in a little town in the middle of nowhere in Sweden. The community asks him to help out with their choir and you get to see how music affects them differently. It’s one of my favourite choir movies and was nominated for an Academy Award. It’s just really beautiful.”
Queer for Short: Tomgirl
Western Sydney filmmaker Vonne Patiag’s affecting short film follows a night out in Blacktown, as a young Australian-Filipino boy who’s always being bullied for being different finds sanctuary in the female-identifying tradition of Bakla practised by his uncle. It sprung from the Generator Emerging Filmmakers Fund run by SBS with the assistance of Create NSW.
“Bloody good on SBS doing the good work,” Zemiro says of the disarming result. “It’s only 10 minutes, but it’s beautifully done. They have a bit of a night out on the town, dancing to music, and they say, ‘You know what? We’re going to be who we are today’. It’s amazing how you can make something so beautiful with so little. It’s gorgeous, about an authentic voice. You’ve got to be authentic in life, otherwise you’re kind of lost.”
Postcards from the Edge
Star Wars lead Carrie Fisher penned this novel loosely based on her fraught but ultimately loving relationship with her stage mum Debbie Reynolds. Fisher also adapted it for the big screen, as directed by Mike Nichols (The Graduate, Working Girl), with Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine as the leads.
“I have to say, when I first saw it years ago, I didn’t realise it was loosely based on Carrie and Debbie,” Zemiro confesses. “And so you look at it through quite a different lens. I watched it when it came out in 1990 and I also didn’t know Meryl Streep could sing. Turns out she totally can, and the beauty of that film is they’ve cast Shirley MacLaine, who made her life as a singer and a dancer. To see them compete and play off each other as a mother and daughter can in this fake Hollywood environment, is fabulous. And Mike Nichols is a master of film. I just love everything he made.”
East West 101
OK, so this cop show set in Western Sydney and starring Don Hany, Susie Porter and Aaron Fa’aoso isn’t exactly musical, but it does share similar themes about very different people coming together to achieve something brilliant.
“You know how we all love Scandi Noir?” Zemiro says. “Well, I believe that East West 101 is one of the best crime shows Australia has ever made. It’s an SBS exclusive that was made through a multiculturalism eye and follows a detective who is a devout Muslim. He’s paired up with an old-school Anglo-Australian cop. They don’t see eye to eye, but how do they work together? It’s superb. There’s three seasons and you’ll absolutely love it.”
Eat Drink Man Woman
The inimitable Sihung Lung starred in three of Brokeback Mountain director Ang Lee’s movies: The Wedding Banquet, this, his third feature, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Here he plays a widowed chef who lives with his three adult daughters, memorably played by Yu-Wen Wang, Chien-Lien Wu and Kuei-Mei Yang.
“Then of course he did an Austen with Sense and Sensibility,” Zemiro says, awestruck at the prolific director’s versatility. “I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I’m loving this guy to bits’. This one’s about three sisters, their love life, their dad, and it’s all about food. That’s the only way he can show his love to his girls. He’s expecting different things from them, and tradition slightly hems them in. It’s just such a beautiful, funny, difficult, gorgeous, food-filled film.”
Back on Scandi Noir, but this time the real deal, Zemiro, a self-confessed addict, says she could just as easily have chosen SBS stablemate The Killing, or political drama Borgen, but plumped for The Bridge because it straddles Denmark and Sweden.
“So you get a clash within that very Scando mono-culture. And I love that we’re not told at the start that heroine Saga Noren (Sofia Helin) has Asperger’s syndrome. She just has a certain way of seeing the world. And we completely went with the story. It actually played so much into how a cop like that, who always tells the truth, functions. It’s incredible. And then, a few years later, there’s Greta Thunberg changing the world.”
Back on the team effort vibe complete with stadium anthems of a different sort, this feminist-themed footy show starring Ane Dahl Torp (The Wave) scores in Zemiro’s home. It’s about a woman who wants to be Europe’s first female coach for a men’s team in the Norwegian Premier League.
“Here’s the truth to it, my partner is Danish and he loves football,” she says. “He’s not annoying about it, but he does love it. And so for us to find a show on SBS from Scandinavia about football, it was perfect for the two of us to watch together and we got totally addicted. The set-up instantly presents great dramatic possibilities. And it’s not easy. Let’s just say that – it’s hard for her.”
A bit like Australia’s Biggest Singalong! wants everyone to give it a shot, then? “Absolutely,” Zemiro says. “Give it a red hot go.”
Australia’s Biggest Singalong! premieres Saturday 5 June, 8.30pm AEST live on SBS, NITV and SBS On Demand.
To join the live event at Sydney Town Hall on Saturday 5 June, please visit sbs.com.au/singalong for more information.
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