Here I Am Film Screening

When filmmaker Beck Cole’s directorial debut screens in town tonight it will be like a homecoming for her.

Beck has big family connections here and, although she grew up bouncing between Alice Springs and Adelaide, she also travelled the 500km north to Tennant Creek countless times to visit relatives.

Here I Am, which tells the story of an Indigenous woman, Karen, trying to rebuild her life after being released from jail, received an outstanding ovation at its world premier at the Adelaide Film Festival earlier this year.

Now it’s locals’ turn to be entranced by the film on Wednesday, 31 August, as part of the Desert Harmony Festival – and what better way to watch it than under the stars in the leafy gardens of Nyinkka Nyunyu. “I’m very fond of Tennant,” said Beck down the crackly line of her mobile as she tried to negotiate Sydney traffic with two young children. “I’ve a big mob of family there and I’m glad the film is going to be screened in town.”

Beck Cole, left, on set with Shai Pittman as Karen. Image courtesy of Scarlett Pictures

Beck started writing the tale of an Indigenous woman “on the brink” after she had her first daughter five years ago. “I was drawn to making a film about mothers and their children. And I also thought that I wanted to deal with some of the difficulties that women have and experience throughout life – particularly women that live an underprivileged sort of life,” she said.

Then life intervened. Beck’s idea was put on the backburner as other projects came her way, like co-writing and directing the SBS history series First Australians and being involved with the fly-on-the-wall documentary on her partner Warwick Thornton’s acclaimed feature film Samson & Delilah.

As a consequence the story changed dramatically through time with the only constant being the main character Karen, played by Shai Pittman. Beck had a “really strong idea” about who Karen was and the kind of life she would lead in attempting to make good and reconnect with her past.

Here I Am has been a long journey for me but the reason for wanting to tell this story has always been the same,” said Beck. “I strongly wanted to make a film about a family of women on the brink of no return. A family that has suffered loss, grief, anger and resentment but was glued together by love – and in this story love is a child.”

Central to the production of Beck’s film was producer Kath Shelper. “We share a great friendship as well as a working relationship, both of which have developed over the past seven years or so we have been a team – along with our third wheel Warwick Thornton,” said Kath, who runs Scarlett Pictures in Sydney. “Together we have a terrible sense of humour, which often gets us into trouble.

In fact, it’s the humour and joy which Beck hopes the audience will mainly get out of watching Here I Am. “I hope that the audience will come away with a sense of joy and hopefully a smile on their face because although the film does deal with many difficult issues and emotions and obstacles that Karen goes through, I hope the audience really wants to back her up and see that she gets to where she wants to go.”

Here I Am screens at Nyinkka Nyunyu on Wednesday, 31 August, at 7.30pm. This event is free.

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