Kim Farrant is an acclaimed Australian film director who is currently based in California. Her 2015 debut feature film Strangerland, starring Nicole Kidman, Hugo Weaving and Joseph Fiennes, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival where it was nominated for the Grand Jury prize. Her second feature, psychological thriller Angel of Mine, written by Luke Davies and starring Noomi Rapace, Yvonne Strahovski and Luke Evans, was released at the end of 2019 in Australia and is now streaming on Hulu in the USA.
Kim’s 2007 feature documentary, the critically acclaimed Naked on the Inside, produced by Jack Lechner (The Fog of War, Blue Valentine) has aired on Showtime and the Sundance channel and on networks around the world.
Tell us a little about your film at SBS On Demand.
Strangerland came from a fascination with the central theme of grief and how we act out in times of crisis. About 22 years ago, my father faced a horrible drawn out battle with AIDS. I found myself assailed with grief and very traumatised by it all. Back in the late eighties, early nineties, HIV had no cure and I watched helplessly as it ravaged away at my childhood hero. Not to mention the stigma and bigotry attached to it.
After my dad finally passed away, I moved to New York so I could grieve in private. I could barely function. And from that very dark place I found myself wanting touch, wanting connection, wanting to have sex, anything but to feel the dark cloud of death shrouding my heart. And so I acted out sexually with a stranger, then another. I felt so at sea with all the loss, and sex gave me the illusion that I was back in control. But it was momentary and then the grief just flooded right back in, only alongside it came an onslaught of shame. Even though I only slept with a couple of men in that time, I remember feeling so guilty about how I had acted out. I internalised it but it festered away for a few more years until I met other people along the way who shared similar stories of sexualising their grief.
Eventually I came to understand what I had done and the intrinsic link between sex and death. The primal need to feel alive in the face of loss and uncertainty. And I realised I was not alone. It’s just something that mostly happens behind closed doors so people don’t talk about it – that and because of all the repressed societal and religious taboos we in the Western world seem to have around sex, especially women having sex, when it’s not for love. And so, from here came the idea to explore this behaviour and how a woman, a mother no less, acts out in times of crisis.
Watch Strangerland now at SBS On Demand.
What are you currently working on?
I am in development on a fantastic project called Julia Butterfly. The story of the 22-year-old American woman who climbed an ancient redwood tree, and sat on a 6 by 8 ft platform, 200 ft above the ground, for over two years as a non-violent protest against a massive lumber company cutting down the redwoods at three times the sustainable rate. It’s a monumental David and Goliath story about a woman standing up against a corporation and winning.
I’ve also just written a short film for a collective of six short films called WOMEN’S STORIES for We Do It Together, a brilliant not for profit that is raising awareness around gender inequality women experience all over the world. My segment is around ageism and bodily perfection/sexual abuse. Juliette Binoche is starring in one of the films, Catherine Hardwick and Angela Basset directing others. I’m honoured to be a part of this project.
I’m also developing three other projects, two TV series and another film. And home educating with my partner his kids, half the time, which is awesome and challenging and a whole new world.
How are you coping with self-isolation?
Well, at first my mind ran a little wild and knee-jerk with all the media and the fear-based conversations around the virus. After that initial period, I realised a few important things. First, to do more of my own research around health and the virus, and not just take everything the news is telling me as fact. Second, to listen to my own body more and give it rest when I’m tired, because my immune system was actually compromised enough to get symptomatic with the virus and I had to learn to reduce stress, reduce my workload, ask for help, express my feelings, and just go under for a few days. And on top of this I realised that I had to stop watching and reading the news about the impact of the virus – because I found that this only spikes flight-fight-freeze response, and elevates cortisol, all of which ultimately depletes the immune system – and focus instead on doing my own research into viruses, and how things manifest in the body.
In terms of social distancing, I am really enjoying the quiet, the slow pace to a pace which is actually more sustainable, the lack of driving, the stopping and being present more with my family, and being grateful for nature and all that it provides, its vitality, beauty and abundance. The blessings in this crisis as far as I’m concerned are many. A primary one being the reduction in carbon emissions. The planet finally has a moment to breathe. Praise be.
What are your 5 favourite films at SBS On Demand?
1. The Conversation
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Cast: Gene Hackman, Harrison Ford, Robert Duvall
A classic thriller. Such a riveting story and it doesn’t age. Listening in on people’s privacy couldn’t be more relevant right now with things like Zoom and Alexa living in our homes. Gene Hackman is a genius. Such a wonderful performance.
2. Woman at War
Director: Benedikt Erlingsson
Cast: Jóhann Sigurðarson, Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir
Superb. Funny but also hugely potent and such a powerful message. One planet we have, and our time to save it is running out. MUST-SEE FILM. And set in the most stunning backdrop of nature. Original plot. Stand up for what you believe in.
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Laurent Lafitte, Anne Consigny
Isabelle Huppert at her best. Incredible performance and a true thriller, that is incredibly hot and sexy, that makes you question your own desires, your own kinks, the shadows you keep. Loved it. Spectacular story and performances.
4. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Director: Julian Schnabel
Cast: Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Seigner
A must-see tale of an extraordinary man, told through the most stunning cinematography, that makes you realise how lucky you are, to be in a body, that moves, in a life, that lives and breathes. A masterpiece.
Director: Taika Waititi
Cast: James Rolleston, Taika Waititi
Country: New Zealand
Comedy from Taika, this film made me laugh so much. He is a master comedian both writer (having this year got the Academy Award for best adapted screenplay for Jo-Jo Rabbit) and actor. He manages to address potent issues of adolescence, fatherless boys, manhood, and fills it with so much hilarity and wit, it has you bursting at the seams with joy.
Border. A Cannes winner that speaks of other – those marginalised, suppressed, ridiculed – and does it in the most empowering of ways. It has one of the most incredible sex scenes I’ve ever seen in it which upends all taboos and has you relating at the same time. Truly amazing filmmaking and breathtaking performances.
Rust and Bone. Sexy, beautiful, heartbreaking, the broken healing the broken. Another Cannes winner, must-see for true love, and how the will to rise above everything when all is lost, is something we all possess within us.