Selling to the US an Australian-made documentary which questions the country's foreign policies and the reasons for its economic woes may seem a tough proposition. So it's hats off to producer Trish Lake who has negotiated a deal which will see My America distributed on multiple platforms in the US.
As a prelude to its commercial release, Peter Hegedus' documentary is playing at various universities in the US, accompanied by the 33-year-old filmmaker, and getting mostly positive reactions.
After a screening last week at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, Hegedus (pictured) reported on the film's Facebook page, “What a great mix of crowd. People from Mexico, South Korea and Bulgaria could all relate to my crazy obsession with America.”
Financed by Screen Australia, Screen Queensland, the 40 per cent producer rebate and pre-sales to SBS and several European broadcasters, the doco follows Hegedus as he roams around the US and travels to his native Hungary, Beijing, Iran and Kenya to discover what people think of the world's biggest superpower.
Lake sold the North American rights to Cinetic/Film Buff, which will release the doco on pay TV, Netflix, iTunes and other platforms and perhaps on a limited number of commercial cinemas, probably in September when the US Presidential race is in full swing. Rialto will distribute in Australia and Lake is pushing for an August debut.
“We were really nervous about how Americans would react to a film which nudges them to think about their place in the world,” Lake, who produced the film with Jane Jeffes, told SBS Film.
“The film is getting lots of feedback, mostly positive, given Americans are very touchy about their role in the world. It's a very logical, laid-out personal story of Peter and his grandfather (a former Communist Prime Minister of Hungary) and a European/Australian's view of America.
“It's not a confronting film like, say, a Mike Moore or some of the other more strident political films you see. This one is far more personal and quite gentle but it actually packs a pretty good punch.”
The film is a co-production with Hungary, where most of the animation sequences were created. The Griffith University Film School helped broker the US Universities screenings and its art students designed the poster.
“Aussie documaker Peter Hegedus literally puts himself on the psychiatrist's couch in My America, a stimulating chronicle of his search for the America he loved while growing up in socialist Hungary and suburban Brisbane,” said Variety reviewer Richard Kuipers.
“Threading remarkable details of his family history into a globetrotting examination of US foreign policy and domestic issues, Hegedus starts shakily but comes home strong with heartfelt messages about the rights of people everywhere to feel safe and secure.”
Lake, whose credits include Gettin' Square, Subdivision and The Burning Season, hopes to shoot two films next year. The Red Earth is the saga of a young Chinese woman who migrates to Australia in the 1880s for an arranged marriage to a Chinese man who works in the Far North Queensland cane fields. Instead she falls in love with an English plantation owner. It will mark the feature film debut of writer-director Liselle Mei, a UK-born graduate of New York University Film School who moved to Oz a few years ago and has a background in documentaries and short films.
Lake, who's co-writing the script with Mei, thinks Ewan McGregor would be ideal as the male lead. It'll be shot in Mandarin and English. Lake will meet with casting agents and sales agents when she goes to London on an Ausfilm-arranged mission in May, and she intends to apply for Screen Australia funding in September. Hopscotch, whose managing director Troy Lum is Mei's partner, will release the film in Australia and New Zealand.
Also, Lake is serving as executive producer of World of Chickens, a 'bromantic' comedy based on Nick Earls' novel about the romantic travails of two guys who are best mates and medical students. Kath and Kim regular Peter Rowsthorn will play Ron Todd, proud proprietor of Ron Todd's World of Mowers. The director is the London-based Charlotte George and the producers are Tait Brady and Chelsea Bruland. Lake aims to progress that project when she's in London.