VENICE (AP) – Roderick MacKay had to get government approval to leave Australia, spent two weeks in preventive coronavirus quarantine in Rome and will be locked up in a hotel in Australia for another two weeks after his return.
But the 33-year-old director says it’s a small price to get his first feature, “The Furnace”, to the Venice Film Festival – especially after it took six years to make.
The Furnace explores a forgotten aspect of the 19th century Western Australian gold rush, when Muslim and Sikh camel stewards from India, Afghanistan and Persia – the former name of Iran – were brought in by the British settlers to help open of the Outback. work as indentured servants.
The Furnace follows the story of a young Afghan camel master, played by Egyptian actor Ahmed Malek, who is led astray by a shrewd prospector from his friendship with local Aboriginal people.
“It sheds light on a little-known chapter in our history and represents community groups that are not really represented in Australia’s history,” MacKay told The Associated Press. “And so I think based on that, that was really the thing that forced me to come here and do my bit to represent the movie.”
That was not easy given the coronavirus pandemic and the incarceration of MacKay’s hometown of Perth, in western Australia, and the Italian restrictions on travelers coming from outside Europe.
MacKay needed permission from the federal government to leave the country, successfully arguing that “The Furnace” was the only official Australian selection in Venice, where it is featured in the Horizons section on new talent.
“It turns out we represent the country,” he said. “So fortunately, or fortunately, they thought that was a good thing.”
Upon arrival in Italy, MacKay spent two weeks in quarantine in an apartment in Rome, people watching from the roof terrace, preparing for the festival and watching films including Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator” to “get in the mood, in the zone” of Rome. .
Now in Venice, he’s overwhelmed: MacKay had only made two more short films for ‘The Furnace’, which he came up with while researching the West Australian gold rush in 2014.
“It took me six years to get this project off the ground. So a month in quarantine, basically in the setup of things, is a bit of a minor mistake in the time I took from my life to make this project a reality, ”he said.
After Venice, he returns to Perth, where a government-designated hotel quarantine awaits him.
“Not ideal, but we understand it’s necessary at this time,” he said. “And hey, maybe it’s going to be a fun kind of two-week window to just digest everything we’ve done here in this extraordinary time.”