05-15 November 2020

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HIFF Blog

October 29, 2019

HIFF39 KAU KA HŌKŪ NOMINEE: 5 Questions with Ben Lawrence, director of HEARTS AND BONES

As part of our Premieres lineup in 2019, HEARTS AND BONES is already gaining a lot of attention and stands as a major contender as one of the most critically acclaimed Australian films of the year.

Starring Hugo Weaving in a rare departure from his iconic roles as a war photographer struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder and the ethical ramifications of his life’s work, HEARTS AND BONES is the directorial debut of Ben Lawrence, himself an accomplished filmmaker whose personal journey is reflected heavily in this film. We asked Ben to share a little bit more about the process of making his inaugural film.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey as a filmmaker thus far.

I've worked for 20 years as a director of tv commercials, music clips & documentary series. Social causes have long been a feature of my work. This includes campaigns for Red Cross, Amnesty International, EarthHour and refugee support services. Many of these organisations and the clients they support were fundamental in formulating the script for my first fiction feature, Hearts and Bones. 

What inspired and motivated you to work on HEARTS AND BONES? 

In 2003 I wrote & directed a tv campaign for Amnesty International. The series featured refugees in Sydney. One group was a Bosnian Womens' choir. The experience of meeting them became the genesis for the choir in Hearts and Bones. It was this powerful moment of meeting these incredible women that sparked the film.

What were some of the greatest challenges of working on HEARTS AND BONES?

Casting was a very challenging process in making Hearts and Bones. I was determined to cast a non-actor in the role of Sebastian. The character is a South Sudanese former refugee who drives a taxi in Sydney. After an exhaustive search throughout Australia, North America and the UK we found Andrew Luri who was driving a garbage truck when he turned up for an open casting we held in Melbourne. The next biggest challenge was getting him ready. But, I knew from the moment I met him that he was right for the role. We went through 8 weeks of preparing and working together before we began filming. From the first shoot day he was incredible and he only got better as the shoot progressed. It was a very rewarding process. He’s now been nominated for an Australian Academy Award.

What do you hope audiences will take away from watching HEARTS AND BONES?

When audiences leave the cinema, I hope they have a greater sense of curiosity about the world and people around them. Hearts and Bones takes place in an urban environment, in Sydney. But it could be any city. I hope the film impresses upon people that there are wonderful stories everywhere. Being curious about people, about your neighbour and people in the street - will ultimately increase empathy in this world. We can never have enough empathy. 

What are you and HEARTS AND BONES’s plans beyond HIFF?

The film has been on an incredible ride so far. It’s showed on almost every continent - Antarctica here we come. It’s a heart warming, emotional film. We've discovered this from screening to audiences in many languages and cultures. We're seeing how far and wide we can test that reaction.

Read about all the HIFF39 KAU KA HŌKŪ Award nominees. To read more about the film and purchase tickets, go to HEARTS AND BONES program page.


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