Interview with Director Rachel Perkins (2010)

Bran Nue Dae is the exuberant new musical that explores Australia’s relationship with its indigenous people. The film is directed by Rachel Perkins, a native Aussie who comes from an Aboriginal family herself. In Australia, she’s a producer, writer and director in both film and television. Recently she offered some much welcomed insight into Bran Nue Dae with us here at Working Author.

From the moment she walks into the room, it’s clear Rachel is both incredibly charming and friendly. She shares a few laughs and sets the mood by offering water…or beer. Then there are a few more laughs. Eager to discuss the film, she dove right into the process of creating its distinct colorful look by offering, “…We did sort of pump up the saturation levels, but it (Broom, Australia) does actually look like that. The ground is bright orange and the water is that extraordinary aqua color. So we sort of wanted to have a heightened look that matches the heightened nature of the film.”

When asked whether she had any direct influences when creating the movie, she went through some usual suspects. Chicago, The Sound of Music, and lot of Bollywood cinema were mentioned, but on the film that was the biggest source of inspiration Rachel said, “Eventually we found a film that we thought was close, and that was O Brother, Where Art Thou? in the way that the characters are sort of odd-balls and the music is sort of rootsy and can come out of nowhere. The world is sort of heightened and odd and stupid ridiculous things happen like tidal waves and things like that. That’s a beautiful work and we looked at that a lot, and thought about how we could use what they’d done and apply it for our film.”

Since the original stage production of Bran Nue Dae is over ten years old, Rachel shared some of the process of getting the film made as well. “Things fall into place for the right reasons, and we were lucky that people like Geoffrey Rush were available who gave the investors more confidence…. It was a long time since the play had been made but people really felt a great loyalty and a great sort of nostalgia to the play.”

She was also very vocal about how the great talent involved was essential to the film’s success. “I used to enjoy that moment where I’d tell people I was making this film and they’d think this is just a little Aboriginal film, which it is, but they’d ask who’s in it expecting not to hear anyone. I’d say ‘well Geoffrey Rush is in it and Andrew Lesnie is shooting it’ and they’d try not to look surprised.” Both Geoffrey Rush and Andrew Lesnie are Oscar winning talents in their own fields.

Rachel also talked about the cultural aspect of the film, and specifically what it meant to make a film about Aborigines in this day and age. “The film is set in the sixties, sort of in a more distant time where people have just gotten the right to vote and the assimilation era, which you know is the process of taking children away from parents. We were very influenced by the civil rights movement in the States. It was all coming into the country at that time, but that was in the sixties. In the nineties the play came out and people thought it was part of a progression because they thought that here is an aboriginal work that treats people like individuals, like humans. It’s funny and has some sense of realness to it…. Perhaps the film in itself is seen as part of a maturity, I think in dealing with films from that culture. Maybe. I hope.” She laughs.

Like the director herself, Bran Nue Dae is funny and endearing and definitely worth your attention. Bran Nue Dae is currently in theaters. Check out Working Author’s review!