The Big Issue : Edition 569
THEBIGISSUE.ORG.AU 24 AUG–6 SEP 2018 33 condition. The car is really the movie’s third lead actor, as well as a key thematic device – the mystery of what fathers pass down to their sons lies hidden behind its Australian-made chassis. After a long search for the perfect car, the production was about to settle for second-best. “We were about to get this other car,” Raftopoulos says, “an Americanised hot rod. I was playing with that as a symbol. But really what I wanted was a classic Australian car.” Then, when location-scouting a leather factory in Coburg, Raftopoulos ran into a friend of the owner, a vintage car collector who showed him a picture of the Ford Fairlane he’d just bought. “I said, ‘Mate, you have the car we want.’” It was a pure stroke of luck – but a headache, too. “One of the biggest stressors of the whole film was making sure that car stayed intact; that we returned it in one piece without a scratch. It was absolutely mint.” Shot at the tail end of summer, Melbourne shimmers under a blanket of warm air – you can almost see the heat radiating off the bluestone laneways. As Jim and Alex crisscross the city in increasing desperation, the movie becomes an incidental travelogue, taking in local sights like the South Melbourne markets, Princes Bridge and a golden sunset by Port Phillip Bay. “We’ve got every little bit,” Raftopoulos says of the city, including the suburb where he grew up, Doncaster. Lead man Hill is an experienced actor, and he brings a wounded sensitivity to the part of Jim; even behind the wheedling, defensive front of a spiralling addict, you can see a man who wants to do right. Perham, who gives a performance the US trade paper Variety praised as “marvellously natural”, is Hill’s own stepson, and had never acted before. “I knew I wanted to have a non-actor in that role, specifically,” Raftopoulos says – part of his commitment to seeding his film with neorealist-style authenticity. “I “I was thinking about fatherhood... The film was a response to my fear of being a shit dad.” – Director Ja s on Raftopoulo s wanted him to experience the world of the father with fresh eyes.” Though he was considering several kids, Raftopoulos was immediately taken when Hill suggested Perham. The symmetry is almost irresistible: a film about fathers and sons, grounded in the performances of a real-life father and son. It’s a personal project for Raftopoulos, too, who was inspired to develop the story – which began as an award-winning short film, Father’s Day, in 2010 – when he learned he was about to have a kid. “The film was a response to my fear of being a shit dad,” he says. “I was thinking about fatherhood and what that would mean. You start looking at your own relationships, and what love is.” He conceived of a character stuck in a cycle of abandonment; so marked by his own father that he can’t see how to be one himself. “We’re so fed with Hollywood notions of love, and they in themselves become an addiction. What I was trying to say in the film is that love is an action. It’s about turning up.” by James Robert Douglas » West of Sunshine is in cinemas now. DAMIAN HILL IN WEST OF SUNSHINE, WITH HIS ZC FAIRLANE AND HIS SON,IN REAL LIFE AND ON FILM (TY PERHAM) – ALL BACKDROPPED BY MELBOURNE.