It’s a long way from a prison cell in Indonesia to Docklands Studios Melbourne. Yet here in a brightly lit sound stage a film crew has been recreating the final days of Myuran Sukumaran, an Australian drug trafficker executed in Indonesia on April 29, 2015.
In an intimate set dwarfed by the vast space, actor Adam McConvell channels a frenetic Sukumaran, painting his final artworks as he awaits the firing squad.
Around the set are tangible connections to Sukumaran – five of his paintings were loaned to the production by his family. Christie Buckingham, Sukumaran’s real life spiritual adviser, represents herself in these final scenes and debut director Matthew Sleeth befriended Sukumaran while running art classes in Bali’s Kerobokan Prison alongside Archibald Prize winner Ben Quilty.
These scenes inside the cells, filmed over five days, are what producer and co-writer Maggie Miles describes as “the soul of the piece”, adding “it was only a dream that we could film at Docklands Studios Melbourne. [CEO Rod Allan] was really supportive and we’re very grateful for his belief in the project”.
These creative scenes will be edited with archival footage of Sukumaran’s case and that of fellow Bali Nine prisoner Andrew Chan, interviews, and footage from a posthumous exhibition of Sukumaran’s work held as part of the Sydney Festival last January at Campbelltown Arts Centre.
The team behind this hybrid film, working title Guilty, hope to engage with people who believe the death penalty is an appropriate punishment. Miles says it comes with a great sense of responsibility. “We’re conscious of handling and managing a story which belongs to others and is incredibly sensitive in many ways.”
Guilty will debut at the Adelaide Film Festival in October.
The team from Guilty includes director and co-writer Matthew Sleeth, producer and co-writer Maggie Miles (The Turning), co-writer Matthew Bate (Shut Up Little Man) and script consultant Andrew Bovell (Lantana). The executive producers are Robert Connolly (Paper Planes) and Rebecca Summerton (Sam Klemke’s Time Machine).
Guilty has been supported by HIVE (a collaboration between Adelaide Film Festival, ABC Arts, Screen Australia, and Australia Council), Good Pitch, Film Victoria, and private investment.