Out of the picture Michael Bodey | December 01, 2007
GEOFFREY Rush once told of the time he was walking along Melbourne's Flemington Road after horseriding training for his role in the European film Les Miserables. He'd just won a Golden Globe award for his performance in Shine and was weeks away from winning his first Oscar.
"I saw this truck belting down the road and there was this look of recognition from the driver, who yelled out: 'Hey Geoff, good luck with the Logies!'
"I treasure that as a divine moment."
It's a cautionary tale ahead of this week's Australian Film Institute Awards, as the country's petty cultural divide between the film and television sectors reopens.
The AFI Awards will be boycotted by the leading nominee in the TV categories, ABCTV, and will be without a number of high-profile nominees who either didn't want to enter, missed the inexplicably revised entry dates or didn't qualify, including the film recently adjudged best of the year at the Inside Film Awards, The Jammed.
"This film has been made outside of the film industry and been outside of the box in many ways," says its producer, Andrea Buck.
"It didn't seem to fit the grooves of many of the powers in the film industry, so it's a really, really big disappointment for us that it is just a bureaucratic thing that means we can't be included."
While there are inevitable anomalies and gripes surrounding any awards ceremony, this year's AFI Awards appear to have reached breaking point. The Jammed's exclusion is the least of its worries.
ABC TV's decision to boycott the ceremony has been widely supported by the industry. Television producers feel the AFI brought TV into the fold in 1986 begrudgingly in order to broaden its public profile and attract TV coverage.
"I was really encouraged by the flood of emails, comments and calls I've had from television producers in particular supporting the ABC's position, saying it's about time one of the broadcasters stood up," says the ABC's director of television Kim Dalton.
The ABC's concerns stemmed not from the institute's decision to spread the awards over two nights, only one of which would be broadcast, but from the "insensitive" moving of most TV categories to the first night.
What was formerly the Craft Awards and is now dubbed the AFI Industry Awards will take place on December 5, and the AFI Awards dinner will be broadcast on the Nine Network on Thursday, December 6, a non-ratings period.
While the split over two nights had been reluctantly accepted during its first two years, a class distinction has been instituted this year, with only a handful of TV categories being announced on the broadcast night.
"I suppose the icing on the cake was the insensitivity in which they dealt with the key creative teams," Dalton says.
The two most popular Australian TV programs of 2007, Kath & Kim and Thank God You're Here, did not enter the AFI Awards and the most popular new comedy, the ABC hit Summer Heights High, did not qualify, as applications closed on May 25 for eligible programs that were "produced for television and broadcast in Australia for the first time between October 19, 2006 (and) September 26, 2007".
The final application date, more than six months before awards are held in December, is incredibly restrictive and far earlier than in the case of any comparable awards ceremony anywhere in the world.
Indeed, this year the application date was moved forward, which caught some unawares, including producer Nick Murray, whose Jigsaw Entertainment wished to enter the previous award-winning comedy series Stupid Stupid Man.
"We tried to enter two weeks before the awards normally close but we were three weeks late," he says, noting the AFI sent out emails only to producers for whom it had email addresses on its database.
The AFI told the producers of The Jammed and Stupid Stupid Man that no exceptions would be made to the cut-off date. Yet three years ago, the AFI implored one high-rating TV program to enter the awards when it failed to do so. Apparently, the ceremony needed the audience the program's stars would bring.
To read the rest of the article head to: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,22850586-16947,00.html
BATTLER WINS, CINDERELLA LIVES, HYPE OVERSTATES …The old William Goldman adage that ‘in showbusiness nobody knows anything’ got another notch on its belt last weekend when the voters in the IF Awards made their choice of The Jammed as the best Australian feature released these past 12 months; that’s the film all distributors turned down, so it was also a confirmation of the Cinderella legend … what more could a film industry want, asks Andrew L. Urban. But is the hype on the right note? Precisely because The Jammed triumphed in the face of oblivion, it is slightly disappointing that the once edgy IF Awards has adopted the breathless announcement style of every other glam award around the world (“The 2007 Inside Film Awards tonight secured its reputation as one of the most anticipated and glamorous nights of the year as stars from the entertainment world came to the Gold Coast to show their support of the people’s choice awards ...
AUSTRALIA'S finest in film hit the Gold Coast last night for the awards considered to be the people's choice -- the Inside Film Awards. The film stars were joined by former Olympic runner Cathy Freeman and Australian musicians Sarah Blasko and Gotye in a relaxed red carpet walk at the Crowne Plaza Royal Pines Resort. Freeman said she was at the awards to learn, as she was interested in making her own movies. Host Julia Zemiro said having the awards on the Gold Coast added to the event's relaxed feel. The Jammed, starring IF-nominated best actress Veronica Sywak, took out best feature film. Director Dee McLachlan said the film about illegal prostitution in Australia needed to be told. "It's a tough film and a gritty film but it's still a fairly mainstream thriller," she said. "It's about a social topic in Australia and I think it's important to make movies that count and actually say something."
GOLD COAST, Queensland. -- "The Jammed," a self-distribbed contempo thriller about human trafficking that until five months ago was set to go direct-to-DVD, capped a remarkable rise from obscurity to collect the top trophy at the Inside Film Awards Nov. 17. The indie-financed pic also won kudos for script (for scribe-producer-helmer Dee McLachlan) and music (Grant McLachlan)....read the full Variety article here:
"But it was The Jammed that won best film. The award was given to the producers, Sally Ayre-Smith, Andrea Buck and Dee McLachlan. McLachlan, who wrote and directed the film, won the prize for best script. Like The Home Song Stories, The Jammed is a traumatic story of recent arrivals: in this case, sex slaves."
LIKE most Australian actors she has done the hard yards to get there, and Hollywood is finally drawing deep breaths of Sydney star Emma Lung. While locally Lung is starring in the IF Awards nominated film The Jammed, her career in Hollywood is anything but - with film and TV offers flooding in. Lung's guest role in the US cult series Entourage grabbed the attention of producer/writer Jon Mass, who was so impressed with her performance that he has specifically written her a part in his latest TV project Verdict. A legal drama which centres around the trial of an idolised pop star, Lung has been cast opposite Mike Tyson's ex-wife, renowned actress Robin Givens, in the series pilot. When shooting begins in Philadelphia later this month, Lung will play a British news reporter covering the case. "I just can't wait. I love the character and I'm crossing my fingers that it all works out," Lung said from LA yesterday. "I'm actually really loving it here now. I never thought I'd say that but I'm just having so much fun both at work and away from it." It has been a dream run for Lung since she packed up her Sydney home for the US, even down to the location of her new home in "The Hills" - right under the famous Hollywood sign. Almost immediately after she arrived in March, Lung was cast in Entourage - with the episode due to air in Australia on Fox8 next Tuesday. "That whole experience was amazing and has really helped me here because so many people watch it - even Leonardo DiCaprio turned up to watch us filming," Lung said. "I'm just hoping my luck continues."
Garry Maddox Film WriterOctober 11, 2007 Veronica Sywak choked back tears after being nominated for a best actress award among the international stars Brenda Blethyn and Joan Chen yesterday. The recognition came after a tough period in which the little-known star of the low-budget drama The Jammed stayed on friends' couches between jobs. "My brain has short-circuited," said Sywak after the announcement. "I was sleeping in my car, like, 2½ - three months ago." After a series of mostly guest roles on television, the 25-year-old shines in the director Dee McLachlan's tough film about the sex slave trade. But even after finishing a difficult shoot in Melbourne, Sywak had to learn some lessons about survival in Sydney. "The trick, if you sleep in your car, is to stay up all night and go to internet cafes," she said. "If you sleep in your car at night, you fear that someone is going to break in. Then, during the day, you go somewhere like Centennial Park and just hang out and doze in the sun." Sywak is up against Blethyn, who plays a comic in Clubland, and Chen, who was a Chinese nightclub singer in The Home Song Stories, at the Inside Film Awards next month. The self-styled people's choice prizes - rival to the Australian Film Institute Awards - has given The Home Song Stories nine nominations, ahead of The Jammed with six and the comic refugee tale Lucky Miles and the moody thriller Noise with five. Surprisingly overlooked were the Oscar-winning animation Happy Feet and the immigrant drama Romulus, My Father. The Jammed was headed for a brief cinema run before a DVD release, until it attracted rave reviews. It has now run for nine weeks and taken $330,000. "We had so many doors kicked in our faces," Sywak said.
In a global film industry where more than half the movies made each year go straight to DVD and then to the bargain bin, the breakout success of Dee McLachlan’s thriller with a heart, The Jammed, is itself a little miracle.The Jammed starts up fast and never lets you go. Essentially it’s not a whodunit but more a howdunit that goes to the dark heart of international sex slavery. It also takes a hard look at Australian bureaucratic attitudes to immigrants – legal and not – and the swelling underground traffic in people and blood that makes a joke of Australia’s fantasy image of itself as the Home of the Fair Go.Edgily shot in a neon lit Melbourne, The Jammed takes no prisoners. However smug – or depressed – you may feel about immigration tactics, detention centres sex slaves and the state of the universe, this stinging movie busts open any sense of I’m All Right, Jack. In fact it’s that last mantra – the real meaning of “mateship” perhaps? – that really gets interrogated here. We follow a young woman, Ashley (an electric Veronica Sywak) who’s bailed up by a bewildered and desperate Chinese woman (Amanda Ma) with the demand that someone – and for some reason she’s chosen Ashley – do something to find her missing daughter! It’s a tangled web that draws Ashley in and leads the movie into the heart of sexual darkness. The fast moving story follows a cruel pilgrim’s progress of three innocent girls: Saskia Burmeister, as the feisty Eastern European survivor, Vanya, Emma Lung is both tough and fragile as Crystal and Sun Park is the tragic Rubi. We rapidly come to care for these girls even as we sense that nothing can save them – least of all the stony faced apparatchiks of immigration and the Federal Police.There’s a wonderfully unlikely villain in Vic Glassman – a rich Toorak businessman greasily, queasily played by Andrew S. Gilbert (normally cast a sadsack) and some lovely stuff in the snooty art gallery of his wife, (Alison Whyte) who after all wouldn’t be the first to subsidise Art with the blood of the innocent. Stephen Frears with Dirty Pretty Things (2004) opened the book on sex trafficking in Europe, but Dee McLachlan has made a film that is its equal, with a zero budget but a story and a whizz-bang style peppered with moments of genuine terror that make The Jammed a truly international as well as a hauntingly human piece of cinema. In another world it would sweep up all the Aussie awards: but that’s what you get for going it alone round here!Dee McLachlan:“I wanted The Jammed to be immediate, fluid, voyeuristic and gritty – powerful, and heavy with contrast and contradiction. I wanted to reveal the dark side of Melbourne that most of us are either unaware of, or would rather not think about, and to ensure the story, the characters, the script and the style were not overworked and certainly not sanitised.In the character Ashley Hudson – I see some of myself – someone essentially wanting to live life undisturbed, un-hassled – just trying to make a living, find a relationship and get through each day. She agrees to pick up Gabby’s friend and that leads her into meeting Sunee. It is Sunee who forces her to make a choice: to help or to walk away. She reluctantly helps – and then she is drawn in wanting to save the girls.And when you save someone – it is not always convenient and clean – as not everyone wants to be saved or to be rescued (they’d prefer to rescue themselves), and this leads to tragic consequences in the film.” (from the Press Kit: Titan View in association with The Picture Tank, 2007) - Jonathan Dawson
You’re in a new city. You don’t speak the language. You don’t have your passport. You’re a prisoner. Welcome to Australia. This happens to at least 500 girls every year, or at least that’s according to The Jammed an aussie thriller about three sex slave brought into Melbourne, and the ordinary office-girl who’s somehow roped into finding them…The Jammed is the work of a Melbourne filmmaker Dee McLachlan and she based the film on actual court-transcripts. It’s pretty amazing that we’re even getting to see this movie on the big screen. It was made independently and for one reason or another none of the film distribution companies wanted to release it. But about a month or so ago, word of mouth started to get around about this movie that was supposedly the “Best Australian film of the Year” So is it really that good?Well, I'm not quite prepared to call it the best film of the year. But its a bloody powerful movie. The Jammed is an incredibly visceral movie experience. Right from the opening frame you get this tangible sense of fear. The way they’ve captured the night time streets of Melbourne make it feel like a prison made out of shadows. There are these clinical scenes of the girls being interviewed by government officials is mixed with the sound of them essentially being raped. Its as much a sensory experience as it is an emotional one. And then there are the performances. Emma Lung, Saskia Burmeister are the particular standouts. There are scenes in the movie where the camera catches their face. And you don’t so much see their fear but feel it creeping up your spine. I know I’m gushing. Whilst I do think that it is an excellent film, The Jammed is a bit rough around the edges, certain bits off dialogue and shots don’t always work, and the plot does borrow a lot of clichés from thriller movies. The Jammed will be showing around the country all over the next few months, if ya wanna find out where, check out TheJammed.com And if it aint showing near you, seriously call your cinema, and then make sure you tell us what you think below:
Fearless Filmmaker THE JAMMED director DEE McLACHLAN by Mandy Kohler
LIKE A house of dog-eared cards, the canon of movies that deal in high profile causes builds slowly and carefully. One can’t help but feel that a stiff breeze of conservative bluster and the whole thing could collapse - after all, are we really that receptive to being told just what a holy mess we’ve made? Against the odds, Dee McLachlan’s new film The Jammed answers in the affirmative, highlighting a shocking humanitarian crisis and a public who want to know. It’s this curiosity for the truth and a questioning nature that inspired McLachlan to make a film about sex-trafficking in Australia. “It’s inspired by actual events and court transcripts,” McLachlan says in a heavy South African accent. “I had seen an article in the paper here on page seven or eight and I thought, ‘Well this should actually be on page one’. It was about a case in an upper-class suburb; a guy had locked up 20 girls in a hotel and escorted them to the brothel every day. That’s what initiated me into writing the script.”The film follows Ashley Hudson (Veronica Sywak), an ordinary Australian woman who agrees to help find a missing Chinese girl and gets caught up in the underbelly of the Melbourne sex-trafficking trade. Through her eyes we see a side of Australia rarely seen, heard or talked about. Deciding that the issue was too important to wait the seven years it averages an Australian film to get off the ground, McLachlan circumvented the usual channels. “I’d written the script fairly quickly,” she recounts, “and I’d tried to get the film through funding bodies but it can take several years. I thought because this story is relevant, it should be told now. I thought ‘I’m going to fast track the process: I’m just going to make it with whatever money I can raise’.”And so, she did. With the help of a dedicated cast including talents Emma Lung, Saskia Burmeister and Sywak, McLachlan pulled her resources together and filmed The Jammed on high-definition video. But even when she had a completed film ready to go, McLachlan had trouble finding a distributor and The Jammed was slotted for a DVD release after a one-week run at Melbourne’s Nova Cinema. “Distributors were saying ‘Yeah, look, we love the movie, it’s just not going to play. It’s not going to make any money’,” McLachlan explains, “They often commit themselves at script stage so whether the film is good or bad, they’ve committed themselves. When they look at completed films they’ve got an advantage on seeing whether the film could do well or not, but there’s not the commitment behind it. They just thought maybe it’s a bit too dark and maybe people aren’t going to engage with the film.” After the influential duo of Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton gave The Jammed glowing reviews on At The Movies, not only did they actually agree on something for once, but they also launched McLachlan on a rollercoaster promotional tour when the film was picked up by Dendy. “It’s been amazing,” she says. “Audiences in Melbourne broke records for the opening week of an Australian film. It just shows that people do want to engage. If you said five years ago there was going to a film by a losing politician lecturing on carbon emissions, everyone would have laughed at you and now it’s an Oscar-winning hit movie!”It’s doubtful that the losing politician in question had to compromise on budget, as McLachlan did, but they obviously share a code of practice that should excite emerging filmmakers. “Filmmaking has become more of a committee process in many countries,” McLachlan says. “With digital filmmaking, I think it could swing back where people have a voice to get their story out and not a story that’s diluted by influences whether that be distributors, funding, investors, or sponsors. There are a lot of influences that can change a story.”
Audience support saved The Jammed. Writer/director, Dee McLachlan, speaks again to Jim Schembri.
IN 25 words or less, please review your experience with this film since its release. It has been extraordinary and, in many ways, far beyond my expectations. It's been a little bit like a roller-coaster. Before the film took hold of audiences, when it was scheduled for a 10-day screening at the Nova before coming out on DVD, what were its prospects? At that time, the DVD was looming three weeks away, so we thought it was quite a feat just getting it onto one screen. We'd been through so many knockbacks we were delighted that we even got a DVD release. So what's the story now? The DVD release has been put back and the film's success has empowered us as filmmakers to engage and build a relationship with the audience. It's quite exciting to be part of the organic process of getting the film to an audience. The buzz for the film began when David Stratton saw it at the Brisbane film festival the week before release and was so impressed he rejigged At the Movies to include it. Then The Age's review came out the day of release. Then what happened? The next morning, distributors and exhibitors were calling, then your EG article came out, then it just turned into chaos. We moved the DVD release back, then we literally planned the national release in about two days. Normally, it would take a distributor three months. What was it like taking calls from people who had initially turned you down? Let me put this the right way. In some ways it just felt like: "OK, now we're back in business." I'm not quite answering your question. Let me put words in your mouth. Was there a sense of: "Look who's talking now?" It's OK to gloat a little bit. Without gloating, it brings back your confidence and your instincts as a filmmaker. That's the most important thing, that it actually brought back some kind of self-confidence that I actually did make certain good decisions in making the film. There is a sense of validation as a filmmaker that you haven't wasted your time. What was the reaction to the film like that first week? I was stunned. People were calling me up saying there were no seats available, it was a full house. I've never heard of that. People were getting turned away and had to wait two or three sessions before they could get in to see the movie. It was absolutely mind-blasting that people were so engaged.
When you've had your arm twisted to pick up a stranger from the airport, you don't expect to end up in Melbourne's seedy underworld. Ashley reluctantly offers to help an Asian woman search for her missing daughter. It emerges that the daughter maybe a victim of the sex slave trade, a world that Ashley knows little about.
Rated: Director: Dee McLachlan Running Time: 89 mins Stars: Emma Lung, Veronica Sywak, Saskia Burmeister Movie Review Rating: 4 stars
Vicky Roach THIS taut Australian thriller about the sex slave trade has generated an almost unprecedented level of hype.Initially slated for a oneoff Sydney screening, The Jammed now has a wider theatrical release on the back of rave reviews by ABC TV and a Melbourne critic.The enthusiastic critical response to the film is thoroughly deserved. Dee McLachlan's deft direction of her own well-crafted screenplay is supported by strong performances from a solid young cast.Veronica Sywak deserves special mention for the breakout role of Ashley Hudson, an ordinary woman who finds herself in an extraordinary situation.Through a thoroughly convincing group of circumstances, the newly single office worker finds herself adopted by a Chinese mother (Amanda Ma) who has come to Melbourne to lookfor her missing daughter. The search for Rubi (Sun Park), who may or may not want to be found, leads Ashley deeper and deeper into Melbourne's underworld, a place she didn't even know existed.It's a clever narrative device.Like Ashley, most Australians imagine crimes like human trafficking occur only in third world countries. Her journey is an eye-opener, rupturing the familiar fabric of our society.The film, which was inspired by newspaper articles and court transcripts, also shows how relatively simple it is to enslave sex workers by retaining their passports and keeping their money. An illegal immigrant, whose only other option is a detention centre, is hardly going to go to the police.If I have one criticism of the film, it's the casting of Emma Lung in the lead role of Crystal.The actress does a good job in terms of an accent and postural transformation, but it's still difficult to buy her as a Chinese immigrant, even after the screenplay's explanation that she has an English father. The fact that Lung is so obviously acting, with a capital "A", jars with the film's otherwise realistic tone.Saskia Burmeister, however, is completely credible as her Russian counterpart.A standout example of the can-do school of filmmaking.
Australian cinema’s surprise success story of 2007 is The Jammed (now playing in cinemas), a hard-hitting expose on illegal prostitution in Melbourne. Starring Veronica Sywak, who campaigned relentlessly to get it released, The Jammed was given the cold shoulder by the local film industry until it eventually found a national audience. Sywak talks to Luke Buckmaster about her incredible experiences on and off the set. In the late 90's Melbourne entrepreneur Gary Glazner ran two pubs well known for strip shows and scantily clad women. His reputation however belonged to a more insidious mantle: Glazner was also known as one of the biggest traffickers of women in the city. Glazner brought at least twenty Thai women into Australia; they lived in premises provided by him and were forced to work as prostitutes at various spots in CBD. He kept their passports, controlled their movements and earned around $1 million from their labour. But when police finally caught up with Glazner he wasn't charged with anything as serious as trafficking or false imprisonment, instead, Melbourne's number one sex slave operator went to trail charged with five counts of being an unlicensed service provider and two counts of living partly off the earnings of prostitution. In December 2001 Glazner was issued an eighteen month fully suspended sentence and a fine of $33,000. Fast forward five years and Veronica Sywak is door knocking in the CBD. She is coasting between brothels, quizzing prostitutes about their thoughts and experiences in the sex industry - how do they get through their days? What do they think about when they're with their clients? What do they know about human trafficking and the sex slave trade? Sywak is researching for her new role in a controversial, culture-exposing film called The Jammed. At one stage the screenplay was so intense she literally threw it down in disgust; it is a hard-hitting expose on the grimy culture of illegal prostitution. "The simple reason why human traffic has proliferated in this country," says Sywak, "is basic commerce - supply and demand. A million dollars a week is made from the work of these women. Someone is cashing out. Someone is putting their AMEX down. Someone is pulling hundred dollar bills from their wallet." A few years after Gary Glazner's trial, filmmaker Dee McLachlan studied the court transcripts and began writing The Jammed. Sywak plays Ashley, a career woman who reluctantly assists Chinese visitor Sunee (Amanda Ma) in the search for her missing daughter. Rubi (Sun Park) is trapped in exactly the kinds of circumstance Glazner took advantage of. Like her colleagues Vanya (Saskia Burmeister) and Crystal (Emma Lung) Rubi is caught in an inextricable rut of prostitution and illegal citizenship. If she goes to the police, she gets deported. If she stays in Australia, she waves the right to her body. Sywak believes the sex slave industry is not just proliferating in Australia, but also operating right in front of our eyes. "It's so easy to spot these places," she says. "If you look in sex directories at the back of local papers, you can tell illegal brothels where there are trafficked girls. They say 'new girls every week, all Asian,' blah blah blah. It's just so obvious." "The Jammed is a G rated version of what is happening. There was a brothel in Port Melbourne with underage boys and girls from South East Asia. Really scary stuff, and it's happening in our most affluent suburbs."
Australian movie ‘The Jammed’ has proved an instant box office smash hit following its release last week and nomination as “the Australian Movie of the Year” by the critics. The film nearly didn’t see light of day in a movie house but for the grit and determination of Epping’s John L Simpson of fledgling Titan View distribution company. John L Simpson had to take a second mortgage on his family home to raise money to fund the screening of the newly acclaimed masterpiece of storyline, acting and direction. Overnight the film has gained international attention and demand following rave reviews including four and a half star ratings from Melbourne’s The Age newspaper’s Jim Schembri and now the same from The Sydney Morning Herald film critic. ABC TV’s David Stratton and Margaret Pomeranz also acclaimed it best Australian film of the year with a four star rating. The Jammed is a dramatic social thriller about human trafficking, illegal prostitution and government deportation inspired by actual events and court transcripts. The film is currently screening at The Palace Verona Paddington and The Palace Norton Street and The Hayden Orpheum Cremorne.
THE JAMMED Rating MA Time 89 minutes Country Released August 30
...tough, moving and eye opening... Initially headed direct to DVD, a glowing and rallying review on the ABC’s influential At The Movies has resulted in debut writer/director Dee McLachlan’s dramatic thriller The Jammed getting snatched up for a quick cinematic run. Thankfully, the film is gutsy and topical enough to stand on its own, and should rate as more than just a little film with an interesting back story.Through the eyes of everyday paper-pusher Ashley Hudson (an impressively natural and unaffected turn from Veronica Sywak), we are drawn into the ugly, brutal, shadowy world of people smuggling and sex trafficking in Melbourne. Though essentially an innocent bystander, Ashley soon finds herself an unlikely participant in the lives of three young women – Crystal (Emma Lung), Vanya (Saskia Burmeister) and Rubi (Sun Park) – who have been sold as sex slaves, and ply their trade in a seedy brothel owned by the outwardly respectable Vic Glassman (Andrew S. Gilbert). Taut and consistently gripping, The Jammed truly succeeds when it sticks to the personal side of the story. The plot strand involving Crystal, Vanya and Rubi is so loaded with emotion that it comes through with ravaging force. Their horrific plight and the fact that it’s happening in our backyard adds great weight to the film, while the powerful performances of the three actresses hammer things home to great effect. The framing story involving Ashley is not quite as impressive, despite Sywak’s strong work. Her coincidental involvement is never quite plausible, and the thriller-style elements that she drags into proceedings largely detract from the very personal story that is at the heart of this tough, moving and eye opening film. -Erin Free
One of the Australian films that screened at this year's Brisbane International Film Festival is 'The Jammed', a story set amidst the human trafficking and illegal prostitution that is taking place in our cities
The film begins as Crystal (Emma Lung), a young Indonesian girl, is questioned by immigration officials and about to be sent to a detention centre. It then shifts back three weeks, as insurance clerk Ashley Hudson (Veronica Sywak) is drawn into Melbourne's sinister underworld when she reluctantly agrees to help a Thai woman Sunee (Amanda Ma) find her daughter Rubi (Sun Park).
Speaking at the BIFF screening of 'The Jammed', writer and director Dee McLachlan said that her film presents a "huge cultural calamity" currently taking place in Australia. "This is about displaced people," she said, referring to the victims of human trafficking - 30% of whom have no idea they will be working as prostitutes.
"They work for nothing, and then get deported," she said. Ms McLachlan said that the inspiration for 'The Jammed' came from a series of court cases, in particular the case of Gary Glasner who in the late 1990s, was found guilty of violations of the Victorian Prostitution Control Act (the federal slavery and sexual servitude legislation had not been introduced at that stage). Glazner received a penalty of 18 months imprisonment (fully suspended for two years) and a $31,000 fine.
According to Ms McLachlan, one criticism of the film, put to her by a human rights advocate was that the girls should have been shown working in a legal brothel, because in reality, that's where they are. Actress Veronica Sywak (who had initially auditioned for the role of Vanya - played by Saskia Burmesiter) also spoke at the screening. Of her role as Ashley, Ms Sywak said she had to "plumb the depths of human debauchery and sadness." "It was an incredibly emotionally charged set," she said. Ms McLachlan said that such was the potency of the subject matter, on difficult days the assistance of a "talent alignment" person was sought for counselling purposes.
“The Jammed' is a powerful piece of cinema that delves into Australia's dark underbelly - a confronting and unpleasant place - that like Ashley Hudson, many of us would prefer to turn our back on. It was interesting to see Debra Lawrence (Pippa from 'Home & Away') in the role of the heartless DIMIA Case Officer, and Kate Atkinson ('Seachange's' Constable Karen Miller) as Ashley's detached, middle class friend Gabi.
'The Jammed' screens exclusively in Brisbane at the Dendy from August 30.
The Jammed and the damned I'm a bit stirred up since last night.I went with some friends to see the new australian movie THE JAMMED. It chronicles the stories of three trafficked survivors from Melbourne. It really highlights the injustice within the current law for trafficking survivors. Perhaps you don't know?1. trafficked survivors found in Australia have to testify against their traffickers if they want ANY help from the government. If they don't testify they get deported immediately. 2. IF they do testify they have 30 days for the police to make an actual case... if they can't make a case the survivor is STILL deported. 3. Even if they can make a case - the survivor isn't assured permanent status...The suffering these women have endured is unimaginable. I think we could do better. What do you think of these ideas:1. investigative teams that find out where they are being held and bust them out (the early army used to STORM BROTHELS - there would be about 75 soldiers and they'd bust in through the door go into the brothels and any women that wanted to come would be put in the centre of the salvationists and accompanied out - then disappear into a salvo home)... Let's bring back some muscular salvation?2. An Underground railroad: yep, just like the days of slavery - we just absorb trafficked women into Christian community. Until the unjust laws are changed... we care for them/ we don't 'report' them until they can be guaranteed safety and provision. People think these are unrealistic but I think they are a normal Christian response... it's not like they haven't been done before. I think often we hide behind risk management and professional social work instead of just doing what we can when we can... we are the Church - I think we can do more. I pray God will help me to know what I can do to fulfill Isa. 61 and bring His Kingdom to these women NOW as it is in heaven.
FILM fans at BIFF who caught this local drama about the plight of migrant women who are exploited as sex slaves voted it one of the top 10 movies of the film festival, yet it almost didn't make it for a general cinema release. However, after such a strong showing at the festival and early critical support, Dendy has picked up Dee McLachlan's powerful film for an exclusive season. McLachlan was inspired to write a film about migrant women caught up in the shady word of human trafficking after reading a small newspaper article about a convicted sex trafficker getting a suspended sentence. The resulting story involves fictional characters who have been created out of real scenarios. It's emotionally confronting, with several scenes of rape and humiliation, but not terribly sexually explicit given the content. Ashley Hudson (Veronica Sywak from Blurred) is the ordinary woman who finds herself caught up in an extraordinary situation. She's a woman who works in an insurance office shuffling papers and her biggest challenge in life is dealing with the type of relationship hassles that many of us face. Then she encounters a Chinese woman who needs help. She's arrived in Melbourne looking for her daughter who could be working as a prostitute, with the only clue being a postcard of Flinders St Station. Hudson finds herself caught up in a world where people have no escape. The missing daughter turns out to be working as a prostitute under the name of Rubi (Sun Park, who has a very different role here than her normal gig as one of Hi-Five). Rubi shares a room, or really a hovel, with two other girls. There is Vanya (Saskia Burmeister of Sea Patrol) who retains some of her Russian feistiness despite her helpless situation and Crystal (Emma Lung of 48 Shades), who came to Australia to work as a table dancer but is raped repeatedly by a pimp who arranged for her immigration, before she agrees to work in his brothel. Sywak, Lung and Burmeister all give strong performances as women caught up in a desperate situation. (89 min)
The Jammed (Dee McLachlan, 2007, Australia) Running time 89 minutes Review by Sharon Hurst
Synopsis: A young Asian woman, Crystal (Emma Lung) is being quizzed by Immigration Officers who learn that she has been imprisoned against her will and held for the purpose of prostitution. We then go back three weeks in time, to meet Melbourne office worker, Ashley Hudson (Veronica Sywak), who goes to the airport to pick up a passenger. There she is approached by Sunee, (Amanda Ma), a woman who has just flown over from China desperate to find her missing daughter. Ashley’s at first reluctant search leads her into the murky world of human trafficking, where Crystal, along with Vanya (Saskia Burmeister) and Rubi (Sun Park) have been lured to Australia on the promise of being dancers, only to find themselves held as sex slaves. Amidst all the publicity about illegal immigrant smuggling the important issue of sexual trafficking is often ignored. Inspired by actual events and court transcripts, this powerful film reveals a world many of us have little idea exists, at least in Australia. As the story unfolds, the sinister workings of human trafficking and enforced prostitution are exposed, along with the harshly uncompassionate approach taken by the Immigration Department in dealing with its victims. The Jammed works on multiple levels, both as a thriller and as a powerful piece of social commentary. Director/writer McLachlan deftly interlaces the fictional story line with the real human issues. Full credit must go first to the excellent scripting which rings true at every turn. Add to this the splendid performances by the young women, who manage to elicit such intense empathy for their shocking plights. Emma Lung (Peaches, 48 Shades Of Brown) skilfully captures Crystal’s fear, combined with her increasingly resilient attitude, while Park displays Rubi’s extreme fragility, especially in one scene of searing emotional intensity. Burmeister’s Vanya (Hating Alison Ashley, Thunderstruck) is a powerhouse of sexuality, resentment and strength. Sywak (Romulus My Father) also shows her exceptional talent in a measured and authentic performance. Also be commended is the fine cinematography which manages to capture Melbourne with an immediacy and vibrancy that is at once alluring and impersonal and the empathetic soundtrack, composed by the director’s brother, Grant McLachlan. The film takes a strongly committed approach to the suffering women, revealing their vulnerability and contrasting it with the detestable brutality of the men who exploit these naïve and hapless girls. From the heavily-tattooed client to those actually running the prostitution ring, men emerge as having very little to commend them, as all the male actors in their respective roles convincingly bring home. Even with the occasional male who attempts to be helpful we are left with the feeling that they cannot understand what it must be like for a woman to be treated in such a sub-human way. Several scenes are very raw in their depiction of physical abuse and drawing us into intense sympathy for the girls’ desperate situation. A compassionate and inspiring film, The Jammed should be seen by everyone with a concern for social justice and the aspiration to make a difference in our too-often complacent society.
As the story races on, the meaning of the film's title becomes harrowingly accurate.
Saskia Burmeister as Vanya, a woman subjected to sexual slavery in Jammed.
Drama Run Time 89 minutes Rated MA 15+ Country Australia Director Dee McLachlan Actors Emma Lung, Saskia Burmeister, Sun Park, Veronica Sywak Rating stars-4 half You know from the start that this film isn't going to have a happy ending. The caption warning that it was inspired by Australian court transcripts is one clue; opening scenes involving a vacant-eyed Chinese prostitute being interrogated by immigration officers, and the frustrated white woman who turns up to help her, hammer the point home. But in the world of dramatic cinema, happy endings can be overrated - and never more so than when the alternative is a film such as The Jammed. In a time when every other idiot seems to have a story to tell and, worse still, a wide variety of forums to clog up doing so, here's a tale actually worth telling. It doesn't hurt, either, that this film is so superbly put together. The prostitute being questioned answers to the name of Crystal (Emma Lung, from Peaches) and it's her hellish Australian experience we flash back to see unfold. Crystal was sent to Sydney to sort out a family debt she thought she was going to pay off by dancing on tables. Having been brutally set straight, she is driven to an illegal Melbourne brothel to work off her debt along with two other young women in similar circumstances, the Russian Vanya (Saskia Burmeister) and the Chinese Rubi (Sun Park). In a more affluent part of town, a glimmer of hope appears when a bored office worker named Ashley (Veronica Sywak) gets roped into giving a Chinese stranger a lift. This desperate older woman is looking for her missing daughter and, despite Ashley's instinct to mind her own business, her humanity gets the better of her and she gets drawn into the search. She'll confront many unpredictable scenarios in her quest to help, but ultimately how much can she help, if at all? As the story races on, the meaning of the film's title becomes harrowingly accurate. That this film was made in Australia and mainly by natives (although writer-director Dee McLachlan is South African) is all well and good but really neither here nor there; what's important is that The Jammed will be revelatory and powerful to most audiences anywhere. It's dynamically lit and filmed and credibly acted, with an elegant score to boot, but there's much more to it than that. It isn't provocative for the sake of being provocative, nor is it merely some worthy exercise in politically correct filmmaking. Sexual trafficking, modern slavery, call it what you want - the point is there's a terrifying amount of truth in what this film depicts. Rarely do you come across a film that everyone could learn from
Dee McLachlan (third from left) hopes the audience realises the types of cities we’re really living in. The sinister workings of illegal prostitution have burdened our detention centres and courts for many years. Since the recent uncovering of sex trafficking in Australia, transsexual director and writer Dee McLachlan has embarked on a creative journey to tackle the issue.Her latest film, The Jammed,captures the true essence of Melbourne and Sydney’s sex trade.“I once read that 40 girls were being held captive in Kew – an upper class suburb of Melbourne. I was in such disbelief that a thing like this was possible,” McLachlan said.“My script is mild compared to what really goes on. A large percentage of the girls don’t know that they’re coming to Australia to become prostitutes and they’re treated like dirt.“I remember reading one transcript where a girl was repeatedly raped until she was broken in and agreed to do it. Some girls who refuse are locked away for weeks on end and fed pizza under the door.”McLachlan said the demand for prostitutes in Australia and the lack of local girls willing to go into the business were key reasons why women were trafficked into the country and forced to serve as sex slaves. She said the problem was more pronounced in America where up to 50,000 women a year are illegally brought in to work as prostitutes.“Our government is in denial. It’s much easier to deport them than to sort out the problems and see them as victims,” McLachlan said. “Many don’t testify because they fear the consequences and retribution on their family.“Some girls won’t testify even with [a 30-day temporary] visa. They say, ‘Why should we help you and get our lives threatened at the other end?’ Other countries have amended the laws and the victims get residency and protection, which helps when testifying.”McLachlan said The Jammed took just 19 days to film. The script centres on a Chinese mother who comes to Australia to find her missing daughter. She enlists the help of an innocent bystander and together they rescue three girls from a trafficking syndicate.It is a graphic and confronting film, which contains rape and physical abuse scenes. But it is also an emotional movie that taps into the strength of relationships, desperation and a need to survive.“Many of these slaves carry a large amount of shame and guilt – some even take their own lives, so they’re not looked down upon by their family,” McLachlan said.“I never wanted to make a movie that was black and white. There’s no real closure. I hope the gay and transsexual community can see the struggle for rights and freedom in the film.”
The Jammed opens at the Palace Verona, Paddington, and Palace Norton St, Leichhardt, on 30 August.
MELBOURNE film The Jammed seems the unlikeliest success story.It's a confronting, low-budget movie set against a background of human trafficking and the sex trade. Yet the film, directed by Dee McLachlan, has broken box office records in its first week on a single screen at Melbourne's Nova cinema, leading to its release in cinemas across the country. The impressive film, starring up-and-comers Emma Lung, Veronica Sywak and Saskia Burmeister, and inspired by cases drawn from court transcripts, couldn't attract an established commercial distributor but was granted a brief season at the Nova. Now that season has been extended indefinitely, after the film earned $38,000 in its first week and followed it up this weekend with earnings of $32,000, a figure likely to rise to $40,000 for the week: a sign the initial success is no flash in the pan. The film has already opened at three other Melbourne cinemas and will be released in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth tomorrow, and in Canberra next month, while screenings in Tasmania, South Australia and the Northern Territory are being negotiated. Nova owner Natalie Miller describes the results as extraordinary. But when so many good films, including Australian ones, fall over, to what does this one owe its initial success? Miller isolates four factors: its quality, effective grassroots marketing (mainly street posters), a controversy in the Victorian media over its rejection by distributors and the Melbourne International Film Festival (even though it was selected for the Sydney and Brisbane festivals and won a prize at the latter), and three key rave reviews, two of them from ABC television's At the Movies. Would it have performed so well without the controversy? Miller isn't sure. Reel Time hears the Sydney preview figures at the weekend were not in the same ball park as the Melbourne ones. But it's an impressive start for a film that has no trailer or big stars and initially seemed destined to go straight to DVD. NOVA'S Miller, meanwhile, is planning an exclusive season for another powerful low-budget local film, Kriv Stenders's Boxing Day, which was funded by the Adelaide Film Festival. Yet another local film without an established distributor but with healthy revenues in limited release is 4, a musical documentary based on Vivaldi's The Four Seasons and directed by Tim Slade. The film, praised glowingly by The Australian's Evan Williams, earned about $15,500 at Sydney's Cremorne Orpheum in its first week. Orpheum general manager Paul Dravet says its popularity exemplifies a trend: audiences are returning to "offbeat, independent, exclusive" films and showing less interest in mainstream Hollywood titles. As 4 doesn't have a distributor, Dravet deals directly with the filmmakers. "That could be an interesting future for us: bypassing the distributor," he says. "That means we take full control of the advertising campaign." IN its 40th week at Dravet's cinema (and therefore surely by far the longest-running film in Australia) is As It is in Heaven, a Swedish film that was overlooked by distributors but which audiences have clearly taken to their hearts. All of this points to a future that resembles the days when individual cinemas would play a successful title for months on end: a pattern that ended when it became common for films to be released simultaneously at several cinemas in each city and, as a consequence, they burned out relatively quickly. Even the smaller films have generally been expected to do well during their opening weekend instead of being allowed to slowly build an audience via word of mouth. Someone acutely aware of this is Tony Ayres, writer and director of the local drama The Home Song Stories, starring Joan Chen. In an instance of viral marketing, Ayres and his colleagues emailed a letter to all their friends and contacts ahead of the film's release, urging them to turn out on the first weekend and to forward the message to 10 more people. Reel Time received the email from a non-film industry source, suggesting the message successfully circulated beyond the usual industry crowd. "Cinema exhibitors regard the opening weekend as the most significant time in the film's season," reads the email. "A strong opening weekend will also encourage other cinemas to consider screening The Home Song Stories. Australian films have limited publicity budgets compared to the big American films. We can't afford billboards or TV ads. We are relying on the kindness of friends and colleagues to help us let the public know that our film is screening." One of the film's producers, Michael McMahon, says feedback suggests the campaign seemed to work very well, with some recipients organising groups of people to see the film at the weekend. THE Home Song Stories is one of nine Australian features that will be screened next month at the Toronto International Film Festival. The others are Gillian Armstrong's Death Defying Acts, starring Guy Pearce and Catherine Zeta Jones, Richard Roxburgh's Romulus, My Father, Scott Hicks's documentary about composer Philip Glass, Glass: a Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts, Rolf de Heer's silent comedy Dr Plonk, Peter Duncan's Unfinished Sky, Ben Hackworth's Corroboree, Lawrence Johnston's doco Night and Peter Carstairs's September (the first film from the Tropfest Feature Program).
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