FOR many Australians, January 26 is a time for celebration with family and friends, but it's a dark day for the characters of a new telemovie.
Following three stories over an intense 12-hour period on a sweltering Australia Day, the provocative film Australia Day was directed by Kriv Stenders and shot entirely in suburban Brisbane.
In the film's opening scenes, indigenous teen April (Miah Madden), young Chinese woman Lan (Jenny Wu) and Sami (Elias Anton), an Iranian-Australian teen, are desperate and on the run.
As each of their stories unfold, farmer Terry (Bryan Brown), indigenous policewoman (Shari Sebbens) and homicide detective (Matthew Le Nevez) are also swept into a whirlpool of violence, racism and resentment.
"I knew about the script a couple of years before I had it presented to me, but at that stage I felt it was maybe a bit dark," Brown tells The Guide. " I passed on it but then Kriv was brought on to do it and he got in touch and said 'Will you reread it?'.
"Some of the problems I thought it had before didn't seem to be there any more. It's an interesting story and I liked the fact that there were three strands and the strand I had was a two-hander.I liked what each of the characters was going through."
When viewers first meet Brown's character Terry, a Chinese woman frantically waves down his ute. She cannot speak English and the confused Terry drops her at a local police station so that he can deal with the fallout from the bankruptcy of his farm. But their paths soon cross again in a very dramatic turn of events.
"Sure he's a farmer who's dealt with some bad stuff but he was also a soldier in Vietnam ... and soldiers are there to help," Brown says. "There is someone in trouble and basically that's a thing that a solider deep down commits to."
Australia Day marks a new type of filmmaking for Foxtel.
As a co-production with Screen Queensland and Brisbane-based Hoodlum productions, it will be distributed by Icon Films in Dendy Cinemas.
"A really exciting prospect of working with Foxtel was that they were absolutely adamant as much as we were that this story deserves a theatrical release," says Hoodlum co-founder Nathan Mayfield.
"It's a really interesting model - it's a first... and I think this is a resurgence of them for being the home of Australian stories."
Australia Day is a Brisbane story through and through, from its setting to the script written by local Stephen M Irwin to a locally-sourced cast of more than 100 supporting actors. Brown relished the opportunity to film in suburban Brisbane.
"In most cases if I do a modern movie it will be in Sydney," he says. "I thoroughly enjoyed going into the streets of Brisbane to tell this story. Everywhere I went was somewhere I hadn't been," he says.
It's a happy coincidence, Brown says, that the film is being released at the same time the nation is debating the timing of the Australia Day public holiday and what it means for indigenous Australians.
"The arguments and discussions are good," he says. "If we just sit there and nothing changes then that's no good. "People move forward, countries move forward and countries change because people change."
Australia Day opens in Dendy Cinemas today and is available from the Foxtel Store from Wednesday, September 27.