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Talking Shop with AARON WILSON

On an average day in Mebourne, filmmaker Aaron Wilson gets his fresh brew at Lawson Grove Cafe, his favourite joint tucked into the bottom of an old 1930’s apartment block which he says, “feels to me like something out of a David Lynch film”. He loves it because, “it’s quiet, you can sit there all day and work, read or talk to people … but most importantly, the coffee is fabulous. It’s Melbourne, after all.”

Aaron is currently working on his debut feature film, Triple Happiness, shot in Australia and Singapore with an international cast. We chat with him.

Melbourne is known to have such a creative vibe. How did you get into filmmaking?

I was involved with student theatre in university for a short while, trying to find something creative; something stimulating. Somehow I ended up on student film sets, working in different roles such as art director or assistant director. And for someone who moved to the city from a small country town, having exposure to foreign films opened up cinema as a medium that was much more than just entertainment.

I gravitated more towards film because I found it very personal. I started making my own small films, working with crew I met on the student shoots. The Melbourne filmmaking community is quite established and it can be both a fascinating and frustrating space in which to make films.

I’m also fortunate to have had exposure to the way cinema is made overseas. Right now, my feature “Tripple Happiness” is set in Australia and Singapore, exploring the parts of history that are common to us both. It has been incredibly eye-opening and rewarding for me.

You’ve done several short films that have been shown internationally including Ahmad’s Garden about an Afghan refugee who attempts to create a home within a detention centre. What’s the best film festival experience you’ve had so far?

One of the most fascinating and enriching experiences would definitely have to be the Vladivostok International Film Festival. The city is awakening very quickly after being locked away from the world during the USSR days. It’s like tapping into a past world that operates so differently to mine; but at the same time there’s a yearning for connection through the universality of cinema.

I don’t know, I just found it really bizarre to find myself in – of all places – a Russian city so far-flung to the east that it’s nestled beside North Korea and Japan, and to be drinking vodka, watching and discussing films from all across the world. You can be sitting down over a bowl of borsch overlooking the Sea of Japan, having watched numerous international films and be debating the effect of Western influence on Bhutan. Strange and wonderful.

The Sapporo Short Film Festival in Japan is also a special festival for me. My family’s business is very much connected with Japan and since I was a boy I’ve dreamed of going there.

What’s a recent Australian film that you’ve seen and can tell us about?

‘The Jammed’ is a fairly recent Australian film that has affected and inspired me a lot. It was made on a very low budget and has a diverse cast which reflects just some of the many cultures that make up Australia. It focuses on the sex-slave trade in Australia and it didn’t need name actors to make it so damn fabulous. It’s just honest and truthful cinema … something I look forward to in the near future for the Australia film culture.

Films like this explore different cultural groups that overseas audiences might be surprised to learn are a large part of Australia. There are exciting films yet to be made about the Australia of today, and what it is growing into; stories that will speak about the diversity of our communities and our place geographically in the world. And then perhaps, the world will stop looking upon this country as the stereotypical blond-haired, blue-eyed, beach-going folk. It is much more complex and relevant than that ridiculous stereotype. My country is an ever-evolving nation of varied people and cultures; a land of contradiction and denial, perched on the edge of South-East Asia.

How is the city transformed during the Melbourne Film Festival?

The Melbourne International Film Festival, held at the end of July, is one of the most popular and loved annual events. Many films from different parts of the world screen and crowds of Melburnians are hungry to see what’s on offer beyond our borders. My short film, “Ahmad’s Garden” screened to a sold-out session.

There is always tremendous buzz surrounding the festival. Festival guests, films, food, queuing in the cold … and of course controversy; because of films that are screening despite objections, confronting issues, or because of guests that are invited. All these gets audiences stirred and keen to be part of the festival. Public discourse flourishes. That’s why world cinema is so important. And you know, it might not be the most famous film festival in the world, but it is one of the oldest and, most importantly, I feel is incredibly relevant.

Martin Scorcese said, “I can’t really envision a time when I’m not shooting something.” What keeps you going as an artist and a filmmaker?

Interaction. With the people and communities around me, friends, with people I meet any given day … … Films speak about who we are and how we live. How we interact with each other. And because Australia is such a culturally rich place, I can actually be surprised, warmed, disgusted or otherwise affected by things I see and experience here.

All these things keep my mind busy with ideas and possibilities for future projects; films or otherwise. It’s new ideas and stories that drive me, keep me looking ahead. New ways to explore who we are and what we’re about.

Yuni Hadi is a film programmer and curator who has worked with numerous festivals and screenings.

Find out more about Aaron Wilson’s film projects here: www.aaronwilsonfilms.com

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