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Plaudits flow for the HeArt

Wednesday, 30th October, 2013

Doctor and film producer Tim Duncan never thought he would be sharing the red carpet with Hollywood actor Tom Hanks. Doctor and film producer Tim Duncan never thought he would be sharing the red carpet with Hollywood actor Tom Hanks.

By Erica Visser

When emergency doctor Tim Duncan made a short film using local Aboriginal people he never dreamed he would soon be sharing the red carpet with actor Tom Hanks in London.

Mr Duncan is the director of ‘Aboriginal HeArt’, a 12-and-a-half minute film about a doctor who is tricked by the cunning wit of an Aboriginal community into buying local artwork.

The film has struck a chord with large audiences and critics alike, having made the Sydney Film Festival in June before featuring at the major London Film Festival just last week.

“It was lucky because it was actually only seen by the London Film Festival organisers after the deadline for entries but the Festival Director, Claire Stewart, said she saw it at the very last minute and thought it just had to go in and was too good to miss,” Mr Duncan said. 

Mr Duncan flew to Broken Hill yesterday to see the film screened in Patton Park last night as part of the Fringe Festival. 

“After it premiered at the Sydney Film Festival, it was then picked up by one of the world’s more illustrious festivals in London where it screened three times last week,” Mr Duncan said.

“I found myself sharing the red carpet with Tom Hanks who was there for (new release film) ‘Saving Mr Banks’.

“It’s been screened in Sydney, then London and now Broken Hill - so it really is the true pinnacle.”

Mr Duncan said that several of the newfound actors in Aboriginal HeArt had provided positive feedback and made it to the Sydney premiere screening.

“Four of them made the trip to Sydney, including the late Daniel Smith who was a dialysis patient in the film,” he said.

“He flew there after having dialysis in Dubbo and then in Sydney. We got him a dinner suit and tie and we walked the red carpet and stood up in front of 1000 people. 

“Not long after he’d seen it on the big screen, he died.”

Mr Duncan said that he had “never dreamt” that his piece would resonate with so many Australians, let alone international viewers.

“Not even in a lot of mainstream Australia is Indigenous culture very well understood, let alone in the rest of the world and in places like London,” he said.

“It was a little country film, but nevertheless people from all walks of life and from all over the world have been showing an interest and can relate to what it’s about.”

The film used around 20 Aboriginal men and women from Broken Hill and Wilcannia.

Most had never acted before, so while there were obstacles such as nerves, the result was “authentic and spontaneous”. 

“We only had one actual actor involved who played the doctor and the rest were local residents. It was really exciting, you never knew what would happen.”

While it was filmed near Broken Hill, Aboriginal HeART is set in the Northern Territory, with inspiration from Mr Duncan’s own experiences.

“It’s about a doctor going up into the Northern Territory for the first time, at the Tennant Creek area, where he is persuaded into buying all this artwork off of savvy locals,” he said.

“It made sense because I worked a lot in Broken Hill and it has a similar sort of art scene and Indigenous community as the Northern Territory.”

The film was made using a State Government grant from the Screen NSW Emerging Filmmakers Fund.

“Hopefully it’s a springboard into a similar feature film, because there are so many great stories out of outback Australia,” Mr Duncan said.

“You wouldn’t think film making and medicine really go together but there’s a lot of interesting and moving stories in medicine, so it’s about being able to hang up the stethoscope to take notice of the things around you and then pick it back up again.”

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