Australia

New Ben Elton film explores what it means to be Australian

Racism, diversity and accepting difference are some of the themes in the first Australian feature film from expatriate British writer and comedian Ben Elton.

"Three Summers" is based on, and filmed at, the Fairbridge folk music festival in Pinjarra, WA.

A long-time Fairbridge attendee, Elton said the idea for a film came about after he told friend, actress Emma Thompson, about the festival faithful.

"Everyone looks the same, the tents are the same, the corale of VWs is the same, but last year's cute kid is now this year's agressive foul-mouthed goth and the lovers are now divorcees," Elton mused.

Three Summers - Photograph by David Dare Parker
Three Summers - Photograph by David Dare Parker
SBS supplied

The resultant film followed fictional festival-goers over three years, as they debated and discussed issues such as immigration and Aboriginal reconciliation.

"These things are part of this summer and even though this movie is a romantic comedy, all these things are part of the national conversation and inevitably they come out in my work," Elton told SBS World News.

Elton came to prominence in the British alternative comedy scene in the1980s as a stand-up comedian, and as a writer for cult TV series' the "Young Ones" and "Blackadder."

He moved to Perth, Western Australia after meeting his wife on a trip to Melbourne in 1986. 

Also a published author, his work has often been labelled political. While he said that wasn't his aim, Ben Elton said he can't help but delve into darker subjects.

"My desire to find the comedy in everything, inevitably means some of the subjects are tougher and zeitgeisty," he said.

Three Summers - Photograph by David Dare Parker
Three Summers - Photograph by David Dare Parker
SBS supplied

Actress Rebecca Breeds said she saw that as one of "Three Summers" strengths.

"It explores some strong ideas, some political ideas, of course, but you're not going to escape that with Ben Elton," she said.

"Comedy and politics, he has this way of bringing them together and making it entertaining."

Indigenous actor Kelton Pell said he was impressed with the dialogue Elton wrote for the movie. "People can be quite picky about it (when it's) a non-Aboriginal, writing for an Aboriginal person," Pell told SBS World News.

"But Ben, you know he must have talked to a few blackfellas to get this dialogue, because it was very, very clever."

Ben Elton said "Three Summers" was a film about what it was to be Australian.

"We're all struggling to decide what it is to be Australian," he said. But he admitted he was still often treated like an outsider, despite living in Australia for 30 years. "When you're a Pom you always still get treated like a Pom," he said.

"I go to barbecues, I'm still getting blamed for Gallipoli."

"Three Summers" will open nationally in November, after a premiere at the Melbourne International film festival.