The Australian premiere of the powerful and wholly Western Australian frontier film The Furnace will open the Lotterywest Films season in spectacular style on 30 November.
Perth Festival is thrilled to present WA writer-director Roderick Mackay’s remarkable debut feature for the first time, in the State in which in it was made – fresh from its triumphant world premiere at the 2020 Venice Film Festival.
Featuring rising Egyptian star Ahmed Malek and Australian screen legend David Wenham, The Furnace runs for one week only at the beautiful outdoor venue UWA Somerville ahead of its national release on 10 December. It is the perfect film to start the Lotterywest Films program ahead of a uniquely Western Australian Perth Festival in 2021.
Set during WA’s 1890s gold rush and filmed in the ruggedly beautiful Yamatji Badimaya country around Mount Magnet in the Mid-West,The Furnace received major production investment from Screen Australia and was supported through the Western Australian Regional Film Fund through Royalties for Regions, Screenwest and Lotterywest, which also is the Principal Partner of Perth Festival.
This unlikely hero’s tale navigates greed and the search for identity in a new land. A young Afghan cameleer (Malek) falls in with a mysterious bushman (Wenham) on the run with two stolen Crown gold bars. Pursued by a zealous police sergeant and his troopers, they must race to a secret furnace where they can reset the bars to remove the mark of the Crown.
Wenham, who is also an Executive Producer of the film, had his gruff gold thief character Mal specifically written for him after meeting Mackay at CinefestOZ and backing the project in 2015.
Informed through extensive research, this fictional drama compellingly illuminates the forgotten history of Australia’s ‘Ghan’ cameleers. Predominantly Muslim and Sikh men from India, Afghanistan and Persia, they moved cargo throughout the vast desert interior and formed special bonds with local Aboriginal people.
English, Pashto, Punjabi, Cantonese and the endangered Aboriginal language, Badimaya, feature in this depiction of the birth of multicultural Australia. The filmmakers worked with the Badimia community of Mt Magnet to translate the script and teach cast members the language, guided by Badimia/Wajarri man Godfrey Simpson and recordings of deceased Badimaya speakers.
The stellar cast also includes Baykali Ganambarr (Australian Film Critics Association Award for Best Male Actor, The Nightingale), Trevor Jamieson (Rabbit-Proof Fence, Storm Boy) and Erik Thomson (800 Words, Storm Boy, Somersault).
Writer and director Roderick Mackay said: ‘With The Furnace, I wanted to give audiences a gripping tale and compelling journey that spotlights the multitude of peoples who have been largely written out of Australia’s history and mythologising of The Outback.’
Perth Festival Film Program Associate Tom Vincent said it was a great pleasure to be launching the season with a film of such quality, made right here in WA. ‘It not only highlights the immense talent we have here in Western Australia, but also explores an undiscovered part of our shared history, which creates the perfect platform to launch an incredibly diverse film season and Festival ahead.’
Screenwest CEO Willie Rowe said after such a successful debut at Venice International Film Festival, it was fantastic for The Furnace to now have its Australian premiere at Perth Festival with a homegrown audience.
‘There is an importance of telling stories from a unique Western Australian perspective, which The Furnace beautifully masters by showcasing our incredible regions like the Mid-West and the talent of our skilled local crews,’ Mr Rowe said. ‘These elements are vital in building a vibrant community which could not be done without the support of Lotterywest, the State Government of WA and the Western Australian Regional Film Fund.’
Lotterywest CEO Susan Hunt PSM said she was looking forward to experiencing this compelling WA based production.
‘Lotterywest is once again extremely proud to be supporting Perth Festival’s Lotterywest Films, which has been made even more special with the premiere of WA feature film, The Furnace,’ she said.
‘This Screenwest film celebrates our local film talent on a world class stage, and showcases the State’s history and natural beauty.’
The Furnace runs for one week at UWA Somerville to kick off Perth Festival’s Lotterywest Films season, which runs throughout the summer until 28 March. Perth Festival 2021 returns from 5-28 February, the full program will be announced on 18 November.
WHAT: The Furnace (Australian premiere)
WHERE: UWA Somerville
WHEN: Mon 30 Nov – Sun 6 Dec, gates open 6pm and film starts 8pm
HOW MUCH: $19 (6-Ticket Film Pack $102 / 12-Ticket Film Pack $195)
BOOKINGS AND FESTIVAL INFO: perthfestival.com.au