Monday, October 22, 2012

The risk involved in viewing a DVD!

Members of the Screen Australia Board
Screen Australia
Level 4, 150 William St
Wooloomooloo 2011         22nd . Oct. 2012

Dear Board Members

17 years in the life of a Cambodian street kid and her family growing from childhood, 1995, to mother of five, in 2012.

This is a one sentence description of the feature length documentary project that Screen Australia refuses to assess on the grounds that in the process of doing so members of Screen Australia staff will be placed at risk! Despite my best efforts, I have yet to come up with any even half-sensible explanation of how the assessment process might place the viewer of a DVD or the reader of a written submission at risk! And despite my asking, countless times now, my plea to Screen Australia for an explanation of how assessing CHANTI’S WORLD could possibly place anyone at risk has fallen on deaf ears. In the parallel universe of Screen Australia answers to such questions are not forthcoming. Silence reigns. Ruth Harley has her own private definition of ‘risk’ and is not going to share it with anyone!

The combination of post-production pre-sale and Screen Australia investment, had my 19th Oct application been successful (had I been able to make it), would have provided  CHANTI’S WORLD with sufficient funds for me to complete the film at a high professional standard – a documentary that has been funded entirely by myself since 1996, with not one cent of Screen Australia funding or one cent from any other funding body. CHANTI’S WORLD is a film that an international broadcaster believes there is an audience for but one that Screen Australia will not even consider assessing on the Alice in Wonderland grounds that the assessment process would place SA staff at risk. Here is a one paragraph description of CHANTI’S WORLD:

Growing up poor on the streets of Phnom Penh, the threat and reality of sexual exploitation is ever-present for Chanti – both as a young and teenage girl. As a young mother herself the same threat looms for her two oldest daughters – Rosa and Srey Mal. An Australian church’s offer to help Chanti care for her young daughters (Citipointe, based in Brisbane) turns into a nightmare for her when Citipointe severely limits her access to Rosa and Srey Mal, tells her that it will retain custody the girls till they are 18 and refuses to return them to her care when Chanti requests that they do so – an abrogation of Cambodian, Australian and international law. Chanti's plea to the filmmaker to help get her children back raises complicated and confronting questions for him. It results in him becoming much more embroiled in her life than he had ever intended. The line between being an observor and a participant in the life of Chanti and her family is well and truly crossed as he tries, over a period of a few years, to get Citipointe to return Chanti’s daughters to her.

Despite my having spent 17 years working on (as well as living) this film it could, of course, be crap. However, in order to know whether CHANTI’S WORLD is crap or, perhaps, a terrific story with great potential, a funding body would have to look at the ‘promo’, you would think, wouldn’t you? In 2009 the ‘promo’ was 7 minutes long. The two people who essentially decided on its fate – Claire Jager and Ross Mathews – by their own admission, did not view the promo before deciding to knock the project back and in so doing lay the groundwork for this dispute. 

Fast forward three and a bit years and the ‘promo’ is now around 35 minutes long – more than long enough for Screen Australia to assess on the basis of the quality of the story, its cinematography and its potential to reach a large audience in Australia and overseas. Will Screen Australia look at the 35 min ‘promo’? No, the act of looking at it would, presumably, be an intimidating experience, place the viewer at risk or, perhaps, cause some poor Screen Australia employee distress!

I wonder if any member of the board has the courage to actually view my 35 min. CHANTI’S WORLD ‘promo’ – of which Screen Australia has a copy. Perhaps a few of you, viewing it together, could offer each other support in the event that any viewer should feel at risk, intimidated, during the screening. Perhaps Graham, Screen Australia’s Security Manager could sit in also to provide protection and emotional support (Kleenex tissues) in the even that one of you becomes overly distressed!

best wishes

James Ricketson

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