Film Review – I, Tonya



I, Tonya is based on the true story of controversial 1990’s figure skater Tonya Harding played by Margot Robbie. This is a dark comedy with lots of mature content as Harding was seriously abused by both her mother, LaVona (Allison Janney) and boyfriend/husband, Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan). There are some heavy, dramatic, jaw dropping scenes where the audience screamed and squirmed with anguish as the scenes of abuse were depicted realistically, with intense emotional impact.

The movie presents a pretty bleak view of Tonya’s upbringing and the intense scrutiny she was under by the media and the public when she rose to compete at her highest level- the 1994 Winter Olympics, and the attack on her rival, Nancy Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver).

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The real-life Harding has given I, Tonya, her approval, as the film portrays her as a person shaped by abandonment, abuse and is empathetic to her fighting spirit, as she was often looked down upon, being a girl brought up by a single mother with very little money. All she wanted was to be loved as her life was often plagued with abuse, rejection and disappointment. Harding has said that in the film version she didn’t go up and confront the judges about her skating scores, she did that privately in real life, and that she doesn’t swear as much as the film portrayed her to be, that was obviously for dramatic effect.

The film was made with a $11 million budget, and Margot Robbie is impressive with her skating ability and her dedicated, heart felt, gutsy portrayal of Harding. Robbie even herniated a disc in her neck while skating and was so overwrought filming a violent scene with her on screen husband (Sebastian Stan) that she stormed off the set screaming. The film is enhanced with special effects in a few key places – the triple axels and adding more people in the audience.

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Overall the film is impressive with Australian director Craig Gillespie at the helm as the whole cast is outstanding, performance-wise, and they all resemble the actual real-life people they portray. Snippets of them are showed at the end of the movie and during the closing credits. Margot Robbie and Allison Janney deserve to be nominated for the SAG and the Oscars – fingers crossed they’ll win. I rate this movie 8.5/10.

Photos courtesy of I, Tonya, the movie, LuckyChap Entertainment.






Film Review – The Greatest Showman

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Hugh Jackman plays PT Barnum, the 19th-Century huckster and circus impresario. A slick musical with upbeat songs by La La Land’s Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, script written by Jenny Bicks & Bill Condon and directed by Michael Gracey. The Greatest Showman is a rags-to-riches fairytale, starting with a glimpse of his childhood as a poor tailor’s son in Connecticut and in the space of one song, Barnum has grown up, married his sweetheart, played by Michelle Williams, and settled into an office job.

His wife and two daughters are content with what they have and are too virtuous to care about money. Barnum dreams of making the world a more magical place and spreading joy, so he opens the American Museum in New York. First he fills it with waxworks and stuffed animals, and then, on the advice of his daughters, he rounds up a roster of “unique people”: a bearded lady (Keala Settle), a dog-faced boy, a tattooed man, giant man and various other hipsters who are given the opportunity to be proud of their unique attributes.

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Ticket sales are soon soaring and he has to put up with snobs looking down at him, shouting their disapproval, calling it a freak show. What he desperately wants is to be accepted into high society and that’s when he employs a moneyed playwright, Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron), to class up his act, but Carlyle gets tongues wagging when he holds hands with a black trapeze artiste (Zendaya). Barnum then arranges for a classical soprano, Jenny Lind, (Rebecca Ferguson) to tour America’s grandest concert halls. He risks everything and tours with Lind which takes him away from his family. Barnum soon gets carried away with success and himself as there are rumours that their relationship is more than professional. One night when celebrating with Lind, Barnum realises the importance of family and leaves her on her own. This causes great drama on tour and back at home where all hell breaks loose. Can he save himself, his family and his business?

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My favourite lines in the film are “Every one of us is special” and “nobody is like anyone else.” It takes great nobleness to spread joy.

Its messages are all positive: don’t judge people by their backgrounds; follow your dreams; family and friendship are more important than money and success.

Hugh Jackman is outstanding and is supported by a wonderful ensemble cast. A great start to 2018 -“Feel good movie of the year!” Congratulations to the writers – Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon.


The Greatest Showman Trailer

Interview with Stacey Copas about her latest film and diversity.


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How did your acting career begin?

I’m currently in the midst of my first acting gig – a totally newbie to the world of acting. I’m playing the role of Sarah in the feature film “The Casting Game”. I was initially approached to consider the role via a LinkedIn message which was totally unexpected.

Who were your role models growing up?

As a young person I was mostly drawn to athletes and musicians – neither of which I actually aspired to be. There certainly weren’t any diverse role models who represented my own diversity in any area of public life I was aware of.

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Do you think there are enough diverse representations on TV / Film?

There is a lack of diversity in TV and film. Who we see on screens does not represent who we see in the community in our daily life. I feel having roles written that are specifically for diverse characters will help to improve this. Also having viewers support TV and film with diverse characters/casting and demand more diversity will help.

What are you currently working on?

Currently preparing for the feature film “The Casting Game” in which I play the lead role of Sarah. It is exciting to be part of a project that has a very diverse cast and crew. As a person who uses a wheelchair it is fabulous to be cast in the role as the majority of characters with disability in TV and film are played by actors without disability.

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What more do you want to achieve in your career?

Being such early days, I’m looking forward to exploring a variety of roles that will challenge me and tell great stories.

Where would you like to see yourself in 10 years time and why?

In 10 years time I would like to be continuing to stretch my comfort zones in all areas of life. By being the best person, speaker, athlete – and actor I can be I hope to inspire others to aim higher and dream bigger and to be the person with a disability with a strong public profile who can be the role model that I lacked as a young person.

Interview with Australian martial artist & actor Maria Tran


Maria Tran is an Australian-Vietnamese. Her work includes short films such as “Enter The Dojo”, “Gaffa”, “Hit Girls” as well as Hollywood legend, Roger Corman’s upcoming mix martial arts movie playing killer assassin Zhen. Tran also starred as Yoshiko in the Chinese action film “Death Mist” in 2014 starring Bruce Leung (Kung Fu Hustle). In 2008 she acted in “Downtown Rumble” Kung Fu action micro-series on JTV-ABC TV and her short film “Gaffa”; another action comedy, won Hoyts People’s Choice Award for the Joy House Film Festival in 2013.

Maria Tran won a “Breakout Action Actress” award at the 2013 Action on Film International Festival for her portrayal of the character Charlie Vu in the female assassin comedy, “Hit Girls”. She also played supporting character “Mai Le” in Logie award-winning children’s ABC TV series “My Place”, stunt double for the character “Petal” in ABC’s TV series Maximum Choppage – Australia’s first Kung Fu comedy and acted in her first theatre production called “It’s War!” directed by Alex Lykos.

What made you want to do martial arts & acting as a career?

I recall growing up and being bullied quite often in school. I was called “Ching Chong” or “Gook” at times and the bullying became physical in an incident where I got slapped in the face, my hair pulled and I was shoved around a group of girls. The moment left me shocked, frustrated and confused why I was subjected to such treatment and it left me angry. My parents must of picked it up and suggested that I try martial arts to learn self defence to protect myself from those cases.

In 1998 I enrolled in Tae Kwon Do in a local school based in Cabramatta and become quite invested in it. Martial arts allowed me to let go of my external inhibitions, become stronger, with more focus and discipline. I performed my craft during school show and tells, spoke extensively about it, and I noticed that I carried myself differently; with a strong air of confidence and since that moment, no one ever confronted me again.

Acting came around in 2007 during a local project I produced called “Maximum Choppage”. It was an independent movie made by predominately Asian-Australians from Western Sydney. It was during this time that my acting bug was ignited and only several years later did I publicly embrace my passion in this, as prior I was unsure about my abilities and being Asian sometime means you have to make choices that also make your parents proud.

What were the challenges you found when you started?

I love martial arts but loathe begin boxed into this. After a string of martial arts short films and movies made in China and Vietnam, I was beginning to be labelled as the “kung fu girl” and nothing else. I was pigeon holed as a “stuntie” which I had no accreditation for, which in turned infuriated the stunt community as well. I wanted to be seen as an actor but didn’t have enough dramatic credits to show for as well as not formally trained. The challenges can be felt immensely when you are doing things the less conventional sense and going against the grain. I found that I had to gear myself psychological for the fight; the fight and rebuttal against all the subtle forms of racism that people often questioned if it was real or imagined.

Who were your role models growing and why?

My roles models stemmed from the martial arts action cinema of the 80s and 90s in Hong Kong. I grew up huddling around the TV during family gatherings to watch VHS tape of Jackie Chan’s latest flick or get excited seeing female fatale onscreen action queens such as Cynthia Khan, Michelle Yeoh and Cynthia Rothrock. Film and television at that time was super white; a Country Practice, Neigbours and Home and Away with storytelling that just doesn’t gel with who I am. But Hong Kong cinema allowed me to think of the possibilities and the relief that Asian faces were heroes and heroines in their lives and adventure in other places in the world despite the dire lack in Australia.

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What has been your career highlight/ highlights?

My career highlight would have to be being invited to work with my long-term idol; Jackie Chan on the movie “Bleeding Steel” as it was shot in Sydney in mid 2016. Screen NSW gave me the call to take part as a stunt attachment and be around on set and learn the ropes. It was an insightful experience to see the difference between the Chinese way of filmmaking; which is fast pace and intuitive in comparison to the Australian way; which was much more structured and formal. Both had its pros and cons and seeing how cultural differences also affect how people relate to each other. Regardless, Jackie Chan is perhaps one of the most humbling person I’ve ever met. He takes on multi roles, works very hard, pushes himself and people and makes it a duty to look after everyone. It’s a reminder to me that if everyone took the time to implement what the value in human beings, the world would be a better place and things like “racism” just won’t exist.

What do you think about Colourblind casting in Australia? Are we getting better?

I think the Australian film industry have always been veered towards their Anglo-saxon audiences for decades, hence there’s always been an inequality between white and diverse actors. In addition, there are moments in the casting system that allows for ethnic roles to be taken away in favour for those who are privileged enough to enter prestige acting schools and can afford to focus on this craft for several years. From my experience, I’ve had several instances where I would see roles made for a particular culture casted to those from another ethnicity, quite possibly because “All Asians looks the same” mentality and if the majority of the Australian audiences can’t pick out the differences, then that’s fine. The truth stand that it is not, and I think there is a movement happening in Australia from the Asian demographics that with time, will lead to change.

What do you think about the diversity issue in Australian television / Film / Theatre?

It’s still an issue that affects all Asian actors as well as stories from this demographic. The issue is multifacet as well as still unexplored. I feel like sometimes when us Asians mention the word “diversity” we are perceived as attention seekers in the media eye. But this is what we want, and why is it such an issue when we raise our voices? Is it possibly because mainstream prefer to stereotype Asians as submissive, nerdy, quiet types? If this is so, I think we still need to continue the movement for change, inspire and activate more people in understanding the issues and find our own ways of representation.

Where do you see yourself in five years time? (What more do you want to achieve in your career?)

In the next 5 years I see myself internationally in China and Vietnam in both acting and filmmaking roles in their movie system. In 2015 I worked on Vietnamese blockbuster “Tracer” and this movie got released all over Vietnam as well as across Australian cinemas and it just shows that maybe to bring more diversity on Australian screens is to think laterally and work internationally. I still see Sydney, Australia as an anchor for my career and possibly delving in more TV series and movies roles as well. Of course there’s also the big smoke of Hollywood that I will venture off to; with broad imaginations that one-day I can also play a super hero of some sort.


Interview with Kalo Fainu from Pasifika Film Festival about diversity

Q.1. Please tell us about Pasifika film festival’s aim?
Pasifika Film Fest exists for a few different reasons. First, it is a platform for storytellers of Pacific & Maori heritage to share their films on the big. Our aim is to give filmmakers the opportunity to have their films seen by large audiences and gain exposure to mainstream media and industry. Secondly, it is about representation, or in fact, filling a gap where there has been a lack of representation of Pacific people in mainstream film and television. Lastly, it is a place for the community to take part in the wonderfully diverse cultures of Oceania. Where once stories were passed down by elders, PFF fits into perfectly into contemporary times by harnessing film as a means of sharing Pacific stories and creating a link to our island homes and cultures
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Q.2. Why did you start your festival?
The festival began out of my own desire to have access to Pacific films. Through my studies in Media Arts and Production at UTS I embarked on a hunt for stories that I could relate to and that taught me something about my cultural heritage. The content was either difficult to find or unavailable in Australia and in fact there was no other film festival in the world (that I could find) that specifically celebrated the stories of Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia in one place and on a large scale.
Q.3. Do you think there’s enough diversity in film festivals across the board in Australia?

I think the lack of diversity is exemplified more so across the mainstream film and television platforms. I actually think the range of diversity in film festivals in Australia is pretty good, which is why we need to exist. What film festivals do is support the smaller films, the unknown titles and the emerging filmmaker or actor. Festivals give screen time to the films that mainstream cinemas & prime time television usually don’t.



Q.4. What excites you about your programme this year?

So many things! I think what I get really excited about when I’m programming is the little extra’s PFF brings to a screening. PFF is very big on bringing more the just a film to the big screen, but delivering a unique experience to cinema lovers. From Q&A’s with filmmakers, to cultural performances and food samples inspired by Pacific cuisine, we really love to immerse the audience in the tastes, sounds, smells, people and cultures of Australia’s closest neighbours.


Q.5. What’s one of your favourite films of all time (in your festival) and why?
One of my favourites from last year was a film called KUMU HINA, a powerful film about the struggle to maintain Pacific Islander culture and values within the Westernized society of modern day Hawaiʻi. It is told through the lens of an extraordinary Native Hawaiian who is both a proud and confident māhū, or transgender woman, and an honored and respected kumu, or teacher.
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Q.6. When filmmakers are submitting their films, what do you look for and why?

Films are selected for various reasons, is it engaging? Is it entertaining? Does it highlight an important issue that concerns Pacific communities? However the core of any film we screen is that it should have a good storyline. I’m less concerned about perfect cinematography (although it is always appreciated) and more focused on the story and the message and what the audience will take away from this screening.


7. What direction would you like to see your festival go in the future?

I think the natural direction of Pasifika Film Fest is that it will become a travelling film festival. Like our voyaging ancestors, I imagine that PFF will travel across Oceania, collecting and sharing stories audiences across the Pacific region and maybe even beyond. It has already started to materialise, with the upcoming installment of PFF heading to Brisbane in the week after Sydney and an international announcement about to be made very soon.




Interview with Aileen Huynh from the latest Tim Ferguson’s movie Spin Out


Q.1. Congratulations on your film “Spin Out” what character do you play and what kind of character is she? Was it written for a person from a non specific ethnic background or not?

I play the role of ‘Merline’, a fitness freak who runs work-out classes including Boxercise, Yogasize and Jazzasize, all self-titled, of course. She is really switched on to social media, fashion and her boyfriend Rooter 😉 The role was specifically written for a Chinese-Australian woman, which is great, as it immediately creates an opportunity for an actor from a diverse background and a representation on screen. My cultural background is never referred to either, which is a welcomed change, as I feel there is often an attempt to justify why an actor from a diverse background has been cast. I do believe that overcoming the lack of diversity on our screens does begin in the writing room. If it hadn’t been specified in the script then I really don’t think I would have ever been seen for this role.

Q.2. What was the casting process like for this film (please expand – e.g. self test, then audition, I had to fly to Melbourne etc and read opposite…)

It started off with a self test which I shot at home with the help of a friend, and after that, one call-back audition with the casting director and the directors of the film. As the troupe were flying in from Melbourne for call-backs, there was really only one opportunity to see them.


Q.3. What was your most memorable moment on the “Spin Out” set?

There is a massive mud fight scene in the film and the night of that shoot the crew had set up this ‘incubator’ tent with hay and heating fans to keep us warm as the temperature would drop rapidly as soon as evening hit. I just remember looking around at everyone huddled inside, wrapped in blankets, in-amongst the hay, covered in mud and completely unrecognisable and it all seemed very strange and surreal.

Q.4. Is this your breakthrough role? (If so why? If not what was it?)

I really don’t think I’ve ‘broken through’ anything! I’m still plodding along, trying to learn more and work out how to actively contribute to the arts world in a way that feels right. It’s all still a big learning curve.

Q.4. What actors/ actresses do you look up & admire to in the industry (Oz or US etc) and why?

I am really impressed by Rose Byrne and the trajectory of her career. She is a very talented actor who has managed to work continuously across, what seems to be a myriad of roles and genres in prolific projects, yet also manages to fly under the radar in amongst all that Hollywood drama. Every actors dream career! However looking at things from a different perspective I really admire creator Freddie Wong, who is now part of his self-created company, Rocket Jump. He started off with a bloke called Brandon making online videos predominately about gaming, which they wrote, directed and edited all themselves. It’s mind-blowingly good. Fast forward till now and Freddie has his content on Netflix, a TV show on his film-making (currently showing on SBS) and millions and millions of hits on YouTube- and that was all self-generated! There are heaps of others like him too, creating their own stuff and finding their own audiences. It’s so warming to know that the art of creating in its true form does exist and that it doesn’t always have to do with money, a look, and luck.


Q.5. Do you see a change in the industry since when you first started? If so what is it and why?

In terms of diversity, I would say that since I started in the industry, the heat around this topic has drastically risen on a worldwide scale. It seems we are at the stage where we are seeing a large culmination of voices from those who come from diverse backgrounds themselves or have grown up in our ever-increasing multicultural society that are saying there is a problem with the way society is represented. Has this conversation changed anything? Yes, I think it’s starting to! We’re not talking a complete fix, far from it and we still very much lag behind countries such as the US and UK on this issue, who are themselves, still working through it, but we are at the start of exciting times in seeing some kind of proactive change. I see companies and creative directors talking about it with seriousness and acknowledgment. There are signs of opportunities being made for diversity in places I have never seen before and new funding from bodies that are open to aiding change. Thank the lord! It’s about time.


Q.6. What do you think about Colourblind casting and do you think it’s important here in Australia?

I think the concept of Colour-blind casting is so important in our industry worldwide as a way of lowering segregation, tokenism and creating a sense of inclusiveness. Of course there is a place for specific racial casting when we tell stories that have strong connections with specific cultures and it should be done with sensitivity to reflect those stories honestly. Particular relationships may not make sense if ethnicity and background aren’t taken into account, such as family relationships etc. It’s just a fact that there are some casting choices where race will automatically be a factor. However smart Colour-blind casting can easily happen. If there is a role that isn’t race specific then there should be more thought and opportunities given to showcase diversity. It’s actually absurd that it happens so rarely, given the current social climate, where our most populated areas are densely multicultural.

Q.7. What changes would you like to see in the Film /TV/ Stage industries

I would love to see more people from diverse backgrounds employed on projects on the production side- writers, directors, producers. Change needs to start from the inside before it can make its way out. Having more diversity brings a range of different experiences and knowledge and I think this is also part of the answer in making the content our industry creates bolder, enriching and more engaging.

Photos courtesy of Aileen Huynh / Sony Pictures

Interview with actor / filmmaker Arka Das about film, TV & lamb!


Q.1. How did you get started in the film & TV industry and what motivated you to get into the industry?

I actually got started in theatre, it was definitely my launching pad for film & TV. My high school drama teacher was a big ambassador and I went on to do lots of small independent plays during high school and my time at university, whilst also managing classes, part time work, rehearsals and performances at night which was a crazy time. In late 2009 I got a role in a great independent show at the Griffin Theatre called ‘References to Salvador Dali, Make Me Hot!’ directed by Anthony Skuse, which led to me signing with my agents and starting to audition for film & T.V. work.

I think my motivation came from a few different sources but mainly from an intrinsic place to want to perform. As a kid I wanted to be a wrestler and used to pretend to be like The Rock (I can still do ‘the people’s eyebrow’) but growing up, I started to notice a big hole in the industry for actors that looked like me. On the flip side, however, I would also have to say, seeing international actors of colour on film and television motivated me in ways I couldn’t probably fathom at the time. In particular, I remember being a teenager and seeing a young Indian actor, Nicholas Brown as a lead on an Australian network show which filled me with a lot of hope. Funnily enough, I went on to meet Nick years later and we are now good friends and have worked on several projects together.


Q.2. One of the best commercials on TV at the moment is the ad you appear in for lamb, taking a playful approach to Australian screen diversity,  ‘You Never Lamb Alone’ campaign – one thing that claims to unite us all: Lamb. Would you say this is a brave and great step forward for television diversity and the direction in which all TVCs and TV should take?

I definitely think it’s a huge step forward, even outside of the diversity talks it is a very inclusive ad and ultimately I feel that’s what a lot of us (diverse actors) are fighting for – recognition and inclusivity. I think it is also proving that a progressive idea and a bit of clever writing can be very commercially successful. If commercial viability is still a doubt in people’s minds when it comes to diversity, especially producers, networks, and funding bodies, then I hope this ad is a benchmark and a turning point to clearly prove otherwise.

Q.3. What is the best acting role you’ve had thus far and why?

I’m generally bad at picking just ‘one’ thing because I’m really indecisive. I’ve been lucky enough to work on some outstanding projects so far including acting alongside Dev Patel and Rooney Mara in upcoming film ‘Lion’ and working with the incomparable Jane Campion on ‘Top Of the Lake – Season 2’ earlier this year. However, I think I would have to take it right back to my role in a play called ‘Animals Out of Paper’ at the Ensemble Theatre in 2010. I got to play the role of ‘Suresh’ a young origami genius in New York City learning to cope with his talent, managing his family and the death of his mother. The writing by Rajiv Joseph is nuanced, contemporary and funny and It really made me push myself at a time when I was young and a little naive. I loved playing that role every night of the season.


Q.4. What direction would you like to see Australian TV and Film go towards (in terms of diversity)? 

There is so much quality in Australian film and television on so many levels, from production crews to directors to actors. However when it comes to seeing true representation on our screens and fostering our diverse actors in this country I would have to say the Australian industry is embarrassingly behind. It truly can feel like no matter how much work you do here as an actor of colour, you won’t get the type of recognition which could help boost your career to an international level or open doors to a myriad of roles locally similar to the likes of so many working Anglo/ Caucasian Australian actors.

I would love to see more diverse writing rooms, open casting choices and producers and networks in general move towards an industry where representation on screen is real, our stories are diverse, interesting and our content accurately portrays what Australia actually looks like today.

Q.5. What would your dream role be?

That’s a tough one! Again I’m going to struggle to choose one thing but I have just finished watching the first series of an amazing HBO series called ‘The Night Of’ a gripping crime thriller which stars Riz Ahmed in a strong lead role – so maybe something like that? Or a lead in a great comedy series or a Martin Scorcese film or something, I can’t decide!

Q.5. Do you think Australian TV, Film & stage has changed since you started and why?

Yes definitely, and constantly changing I would say. Now with so many funding bodies like Screen Australia and Screen NSW introducing great initiatives like ‘Gender Matters’ and also the recent statistics from the Screen Australia study being released about representation on TV, I think TV is definitely evolving. In regards to film, I feel it is changing too, there has been a bunch of of great co-productions and diverse Australian films made lately and I’ve been lucky to work on a few of them, like ‘UnIndian’ – a cross-cultural Australian rom-com with a great local cast which has been released in India and globally. Also two other films ‘Lion’ and ‘Joe Cinque’s Consolation’ that I got to be a part of, both screening at Toronto International Film Festival this year. 

Q.6. Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?

Maybe as successful as The Rock? Haha I don’t know that’s such a scary question, hopefully working a lot both in Australia & the U.S.

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