On Sundance #5: Brendan Fletcher

As the Sundance Film Festival has already started, I had to slightly modify the name of this segment of our site. Our fifth guest is Brendan Fletcher, Australian director of „Mad Bastards”. Personally I was always attracted to Australia – but not that Australia which we can see on Sydney Opera postcards, but the one hidden far from the shores, deep in the continent. And „Mad Bastards” is exactly about that, about the country and indigenous people living there. So we invite you to read the interview with Brendan and to see the trailer of „Mad Bastards”.

TJ is a mad bastard, and his estranged 13-year-old son Bullet is on the fast track to becoming one, too. After being turned away from his mother’s house, TJ sets off across the country to the Kimberley region of northwestern Australia to make things right with his son. Grandpa Tex has lived a tough life, and now, as a local cop, he wants to change things for the men in his community. Crosscutting between three generations, Mad Bastards is a raw look at the journey to becoming a man and the personal transformation one must make.[sundance.org]

First of all, I’d like you to present yourself and your previous movie activities.

This is my first movie, but I have made many documentaries. You can see a list of them on my website (www.barefoot.net.au) but my favourite (and most successful) was probably „900 Neighbours” about a very large appartment block in Sydney’s inner city.

It seems that Australia as a country, its environment, its harsh landscapes are as important as the characters or story itself. Am I right? Or does your story have universal character and could be placed anywhere else in the world?

That is correct. Although the story has a strong father-son framework at it’s core, in a way the movie isn’t really about that. It’s about the effect of Aboriginal Australia on the main character (TJ) and hopefully, on the audience. The landscape (or „the country” as the Kimberley mob call it) is certainly a character in the film.

I have to admit that all these movies about native Australian people have  deeply primal and mysterious feeling. For example Peter Weir’s „The Last Wave” is one of my all time favourites. How important is origin of people in MAD BASTARDS, their roots and heritage?

The Aboriginality of the characters in MAD BASTARDS is completely intrinsic. It’s not something that they „wear on their sleeve” or even talk about … It’s in their actions, their words, the thoughts and the music … It is beyond beyond an important part of their character it is in fact WHO THEY ARE. And because the actors were all real Aboriginal people … we didn’t even have to discuss this, it’s IN the actors and IN the characters they play.


You worked with real people with no acting experience and their characters are based on their own lives. I wonder then to what degree the script was improvised and built upon the stories these people want to tell?

We had a basic script but it was very improvised day to day. The big story points never changed but we did bend and twist it around a bit. However the script itself comes almost entirely from what I’ve experienced and from the stories the main characters told me about their lives. You will notice the script was written by me „in collaboration with Dean, Greg and John” … They are the three lead male actors. Greg Tait is not an actor, he is a policeman from a remote town in Western Australia. And the character he plays is a policeman from a remote town in Western Australia. Same with Dean (TJ) and John. You get the idea …

Could you tell us about the music in MAD BASTARDS and your cooperation with Pigram Brothers? You know each other for years as far as I know…

The Pigram Brothers and I have been working together since 1997 on music videos, documentaries and short films. We have a rich and deep creative relationship. Their music represents the essence of the Kimberley region to many, many people. It is totally unique and born of this place. And it is the soul of our film. They were also the producers of the film (along with David and myself) so their contribution is alot more than music.

MAD BASTARDS is selected for next year Sundance World Cinema Dramatic Competition. Do you have any particular expectations regarding the festival?

No – I just hope people like it!

What’s going on on Australian movie ground these days? Could you recommend any interesting new movies or young directors we should pay attention on in the nearest future?

Not really – I’ve been so busy making this film! I do know a good film that’s just started shooting called „Say Nothing directed by Kieran D’Arcy-Smith.

We’ll see then. Good luck and thank you for the interview.

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