In a curious coincidence, two films from Australia premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) have taken on an Indian character or placed them at the centre.
“Lion,” which stars Dev Patel, has garnered the sort of critical acclaim that echoed his breakout 2008 movie, “Slumdog Millionaire”.
He stars as Saroo Brierley, adopted as a child by an Australian couple in Tasmania, who uses Google Earth to find his way back to his birth mother in Khandwa.
Unlike “Slumdog Millionaire”, “Lion” isn’t full of frenetic action but is deeply emotive and the lead role is the most “introspective” that Patel has played yet, according to the actor.
While “Lion” is based on Brierley’s memoir, the second film, “Joe Cinque’s Consolation”, is based on another Australian bestseller of the same name, published in 2004.
The film chronicles a 1997 case in the Australian capital of Canberra, in which law school student Anu Singh murdered her boyfriend Joe Cinque by subjecting him to a drug overdose.
This film is a psychological crime drama that captures the bizarre case in which some friends of Singh were aware she originally contemplated suicide, then a murder-suicide, and finally, killing Cinque.
The film’s director Sotiris Dounoukos said his intent was to portray how “people through their inaction, consciously or not, contributed to the death of Joe. This became a bigger story than just two people. It became a story about the nature of community and what we owe to each other as a collective.”
Singh ultimately went through a prison sentence of just about six years, as the court took her “diminished responsibility” into account. She now lives in Sydney and has objected to not being consulted for the film. Dounoukos said his material was adapted mainly from Helen Garner’s book about the case.
The director has a personal connection to the events that horrified and transfixed Australia, and as he said, has “been a talking point in Australian society, the story has never gone away from public discourse.”
He started studying at the law school where Singh went, at the same time, but had left Canberra before the tragedy occurred.
“Joe Cinque’s Consolation” is Dounoukos’ feature debut, though he has won an award for a short at TIFF earlier. It will release in Australia at the end of October.
The film raises a point that was furiously debated in the country, about how the murder was allowed to happen even though so many were aware of Singh’s destructive behaviour. As Dounoukos said, “That’s where we are left at the end of the film – how did we get here?”