Willie Bingham is the first man to undergo a radical new justice program. The government has introduced Progressive Amputation as a controversial punishment for capital crime — the real life version of ‘an eye for an eye’. The procedures, performed live in front of victims’ families, stop only at their request.
6 questions with The Disappearance of Willie Bingham director, Matt Richards at the half-way mark.
Thursday, April 20th, 2017
1Hey Matt! Thanks for being a part of our festival. First, what inspired you to make this film? We wanted to make something dark, satirical and a little bit sci-fi. I love to try a new style with each film I make and this story felt like we could really go for a heavily stylised approach. From a content perspective I was reading and seeing a lot about all the shitty things our Government was doing in Australia with regards to Asylum Seekers and the flagrant changing of laws to suit their needs when it came to the environment as well so thought this story was a great opportunity to examine the power of the state, the rise of the vengeance and fear-driven right and how we lose our sense of humanity by going all the way down that path.
2This film was based of the short story, The William Bledsoe Amputations by Michael Fawcett. What was it about that story that made you want to turn it into a film? With the Bledsoe Amputations there was this cold, cold detachment in the horror that I found deeply repelling yet fascinating. The tone was so bleak but with this incredibly black sense of humour that I really connected with. We'd read other short stories by Michael and they were equally fascinating but didn't lend themselves to a short like this one did. He's a great writer and it's been a lovely long distance correspondence as the film has travelled the world.
3This film feels like a scary story you'd tell around a campfire. It's not your typical horror story but it is scary. What is it about the horror genre that attracts you? Yeah, you are totally right. It does feel like a campfire tale. I guess I'm always drawn to the darkened edges of storytelling. I'm fascinated by what lies just below the veneer and what we choose to hide of ourselves from the public. There is also this deep love of the fantastic. I grew up watching a lot of early sci-fi and horror like The Outer Limits (1960's) the early Twilight Zone (1950's) the series V (1980's) tonnes of X-Files and then a tonne of arthouse and foreign film so hopefully I am blending those two sensibilities somehow.
4What is the independent film scene like in Australia? How difficult is it to get a film financed and put together over there? The indie film scene is pretty strong in Australia right now. I can say at least eight of my inner and outer circle have managed to make low budget features. I don't think anyone has made their money back on them though but that seems to go for the ones that are financed through the agencies as well. In fact there have been several 6-10 million dollar films that would be lucky to have made back 200,000. That's pretty depressing, but I guess if you make a feature for 500k and it makes back more than 20k you are doing just as well as them.
5What are your thoughts on the death penalty and do you think there's ever a time criminals deserve a punishment worse than death? The area of crime and punishment is complex. The buddhist part of me can never condone killing. However if someone tried to kill me completely unprovoked I would feel within my right to kill. As for criminals, I feel that the system often fails them as it's about making money now through institutionalism and not rehabilitation. This also raises the question of whether some people are beyond rehabilitation and that seems to be an ethical stance that countries that support the death penalty actively support. Their ideas of the severity of crimes vary according to their belief systems. For example the Bali 9 executions were over drug trafficking where two of the men were kept in prison for 10 years, made genuine efforts at rehabilitation only to be executed. It was a heartbreaking moment for humanity and a clear failure of justice driven by the political machine and not by human empathy.
6What's next? Currently we have in develop a couple of feature films, one, a fish out of water drama with a metaphysical edge set on an island in Fiji and the other a dark thriller based on a true story set on a remote farm in Australia. I also have one more short I've been trying to make for the past couple of years called Lone Pine based on the acclaimed Australian writer David Malouf's short story of the same name. It is dark...very , very dark.
About the Interviewer: Ben Hicks
Ben Hicks is a writer/director and co-founder of Fandependent Films. Ben is currently working on making Fandependent Films awesome and is finishing up his first feature film entitled Kids Go Free to Fun Fun Time which was selected for the 2017 IFP Narrative Lab.
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