“I'm very interested in the political scene around the world so I'm looking for films that are going to excite audiences but also give them something to really think about,” says Trish Lake, one of the producers behind the documentaries My America, The Frackman (currently in production) and now two new dramatic feature films.
The first of these feature films, Dance for Me, will be directed by Layla Fourie filmmaker Pia Marais and is set in South Africa, exploring the emotional ambiguity of retribution after a young woman entraps her mother's attacker.
“It will be a co-production but from an Australian perspective,” continues Lake. “Pia is a very exciting director whose work I've been aware of for some time. The script by Roger Monk (The Secret Life of Us, East of Everything) is in very good shape and that's what attracted her. We really want Pia to bring her vision to the story and that's the stage we're at.”
Lake's interest in recent socio-political events is informed by the themes addressed in the story. “There's been a lot of media attention in recent months with major stories like the Oscar Pistorius case, which has highlighted the level of violence, not just in the African world but in the white African world as well,” she says. "While this story is fictitious, it is based on a documentary and story that did happen, and it's a very personal story of a woman coming to terms with her past and relationship with her mother."
As for the marital drama Rest Home, luck played a considerable part in bringing the project to the producer. “It was an amazing series of coincidences,” explains Lake. “Had I not been at Cannes for the closing ceremony in 2010 I would never have known there was an Australian writer-director living in Mexico City who had made a Spanish language film [Leap Year] that had won the Golden Camera…That was my introduction to Michael Rowe's work.
“Then, a year later, Canadian producer Serge Noel approached me to read a screenplay and asked whether I'd be interested in co-producing a Canadian Australian project. He told me it was written [and would be directed by] Michael Rowe – so that was kind of serendipitous!”
Rest Home explores a world of social disconnect between various generations. David in his early fifties and is employed as a security guard in a nursing home, working in the 'old world' and dealing with issues from his past, while his much younger wife Mandy is from a newer generation immersed in new technology and social media. "David's whole working life is dealing with a generation even older than him," explains Lake. "It's kind of a way of exploring our dilemma in the first world where disconnection is becoming even more powerful with every connection that is made available to us through technology, which is the themes addressed in the story."
With French-Canadian actor Roy Dupuis (Shake Hands with the Devil) secured in the male protagonist role, Lake was tasked with finding an Australian lead to play Mandy. “I was immediately drawn to Melissa George after reading the screenplay and had her in mind ever since seeing her compelling character in [TV series] In Treatment,” she admits. “Also, knowing how Michael worked it was really important that he had an actress who he could collaborate with in terms of developing the role and Melissa totally got his way of working.”
Although the shoot is scheduled to take place in Montreal, Lake assures Rest Home will come from a very Australian perspective, appealing to viewers who were similarly drawn to Ray Lawrence's 2001 AFI-winning drama Lantana. “I have no doubt that the people who were interested in the themes that Lantana explored will definitely be interested in this film,” she says. “Michael Rowe makes his films very tense in terms of the portrayal of characters and how he tries to understand how pressures of life today—some being from new technology and some from financial struggle—are impacting on our relationships.