We are thrilled to announce our opening night film Stray, the highly anticipated debut feature from Australian-New Zealand award-winning writer & director Dustin Feneley.
Released in 2018, Stray has won a host of awards, screened at a number of film festivals around the world, and tells a haunting tale set against the breathtaking Southern Alps in Otago, New Zealand. The film holds the record for the highest amount ever raised through donation-based crowdfunding for a New Zealand film, and ultimately was produced independently of government funding.
Set in the deep south of New Zealand, Stray portrays Jack (played by Kieran Charnock) who is attempting to get his life back after being released from prison. He eventually connects with another "stray" Grace (Arta Dobroshi), who has been recently released from a psychiatric hospital. The two damaged strangers fall into a complex and intimate relationship, travelling the pathways to both heal and trust again. The stunning backdrop was essential to telling the tale. “The power of locations was key to my vision for Stray,” says Dustin Feneley on his choice of locations. “Shooting the film in Central and North Otago, NZ, was integral to that vision. The film’s alpine locations were crucial in establishing the distinct mood and atmosphere of the film."
The New Zealand Herald
The casting process was as considered as everything else in the film. Around 200 actors auditioned for Jack’s role, but when Charnock’s self-taped audition was received, it sent shivers down the directors spine. “Kieran was utterly committed to the role - his preparation was excellent, he went on a strict diet, he exercised three times per day, he attended probation meetings for character research, and worked in a metal factory to get a sense of what that work would really be like”, reports Feneley. “He was fully immersed in the character for the entire 6 weeks of shooting, only wanting to be referred to as Jack.” With Grace’s character, who in the film is an outsider in society not only due to her mental health issues but also because she’s not from New Zealand, Feneley found it interesting to cast someone who was also a ‘foreigner’ to New Zealand in real life. Actress Arta Dobroshi is from Kosovo and came to international prominence in the 2008 film Lorna’s Silence. Feneley approached her about the role and fortunately Dobroshi accepted.
The choice to not have a musical soundtrack adds to the hypnotic spell that draws the viewer in, making one feel completely entwined in the main characters story. Feneley explains, “The sound design of Stray was incredibly important to me. I knew from the outset that the film would not have a musical score, so it was essential that the sound design be intricate, layered and immersive for the audience. The sound designer, Dick Reade, and I spent months of work in his studio getting the sound design just right.” The result is undeniably compelling and memorable.
TimeOut, The New Zealand Herald
Our festival opener has already won plenty of plaudits and awards: with its World Premiere at the Moscow International Film Festival 2018, Kieran Charnock (The Rehearsal, Cleaver) was awarded the prestigious Silver Saint George Award for Best Actor. Further awards include Best Actress at the Festival des Antipodes in St Tropez, France, Best New Director at the 2019 Brooklyn Film Festival, and earlier this year, Feneley also won Best Direction in a Feature Film (Budget Under $1 million) at the 2019 Australian Directors Guild Awards. Whew!
But don’t let this impressive list of awards convince you, come for yourself on the 26th September 2019, and join us for a reception in the Moviemento lounge after the screening of this exceptional opening night film.
"A young man is on parole after serving time for attempting to murder the man who killed his girlfriend in a hit and run. A woman is released from a psychiatric facility far from her homeland. These two damaged strangers cross paths in the mountains in winter and fall into a complex intimate relationship, putting to the test their capacity to trust and heal."
Dustin Feneley | NZ | 2018 | Drama | 104 min | English | German Premiere
Down Under Berlin 2019 opening night film.
Will be screened on 26 September 2019 at 7.45pm @ Moviemento Kino.
View the entire 2019 festival program here.
We’ll see you at the movies!
All images © Long Road Films
Rosie Condon is a New Zealander living in Berlin. Freelancing as an art director and set decorator, working in employer branding, and swimming in lakes takes up her spare time when she’s not part of the social media team for Down Under Berlin.