Sadly, due to the far-reaching effects of the WGA and SAG/AFTRA strike, many of the big stars, the A-Listers and international stars and filmmaker will not be coming to town for this year’s Toronto Int’l Film Festival launching in 2 day’s time. But have no fear, dear fellow fans of Australian cinema…I got you covered with some of the films featured at TIFF. First is THE NEW BOY which has already garnered critical and audience acclaim at home. It stars Cate Blanchett alongside leading indigenous actors Deborah Mailman and Wayne Blair, and introduces us to a brilliant young talent, Aswan Reid, as the title character. Thanks to my PR contact at Roadshow Pictures Australia, Stefan, here’s the inside scoop on the film…..
From Dirty Films and Scarlett Pictures comes writer/director Warwick Thornton’s deeply personal film, The New Boy. In 1940’s Australia, in the middle of World War II, a solitary Indigenous boy (Aswan Reid) is dramatically captured by a horseback police patrol and delivered to a remote monastery orphanage in the dead of night. The monastery is run by a feisty nun, Sister Eileen (Cate Blanchett), who has worked hard to make it a happy retreat away from the world and its war – and she will do anything to keep it that way. Since the elderly monk who was in charge died, Sister Eileen has been running the place secretly and is very protective of her small group of boys. Wary of too much Church oversight, she is always very careful to keep her head down and make good on the monastery’s expected contribution to the war effort. To that end she is helped by two Aboriginal staff – George (Wayne Blair), who runs the monastery’s farm with the help of the children, and Sister Mum (Deborah Mailman), who runs the domestic side of things.The new arrival (pictured above) doesn’t speak English, and no-one knows where he came from. He has been living a nomadic tribal life up until now, having no concept of Western norms. Dubbed the New Boy, he is quick to pick up on things and soon understands the pecking order and how to make it work. His survival instincts are sharp, his intelligence dexterous and he seems to have special powers which he uses for healing as well as for his own entertainment. The monastery’s orderly Christian ethos is unsettled by his presence, particularly in the case of the head boy, Michael (Shane McKenzie-Brady). And George, an Aboriginal farmhand who believes he’s on a good wicket and doesn’t want the boat to be rocked, recognizes something ancient in the boy that he would sooner forget. Sister Eileen, herself a bit of a square peg, is acutely aware of the precariousness of the monastery’s situation. Faced with her own survival choices when the old monk died, she determined to hold the orphanage together, knowing that any change could put the children in her care in peril. Now the New Boy, with his mysterious and alluring energy, is causing disturbance inside her delicately balanced world. She, George and Sister Mum already have their work cut out just keeping things ticking over.
When a special delivery requires a personal signature from the deceased monk, Sister Eileen has to assume responsibility for it with a bit of careful dodging and some astute white lies. She takes charge of the special cargo – an extraordinary religious treasure; a life-size carving of Christ on the cross – sent to this remote place by the Church to protect it from the ravages of war in France. When New Boy encounters this image of Jesus for the first time he is transfixed. However, the boy’s Indigenous spiritual life and mysterious powers do not gel with the mission’s orderly Christianity, leading to a series of unsettling encounters. Something must be done. Sister Eileen is faced with a choice between the traditions of her faith and the truth embodied in the boy. As her foundations are rocked, will the secret she has harboured for a year be discovered, imperiling the orphanage? Or will everything be brought in line, made good and safe and orderly, even at the cost of New Boy’s unique Indigenous spiritual power?
TIFF screenings are as follows (get your tkts now as this is a very popular film). In fact, it looks like the Fri & Sat screenings are already sold out.
Thursday, September 14 at Roy Thomson Hall 5:30 PM
Friday, September 15 at Scotiabank Theatre 2:45 PM
Saturday, September 16 at Scotiabank Theatre 6:15 PM