“I think there’s a new generation of filmmakers in Australia,” says David Michod, whose debut feature Animal Kingdom is the second thriller from Down Under to play on Canadian screens this summer, following Nash Edgerton’s tricky The Square. “It’s a reaction against the films that immediately proceeded our own.”
Michod speaks specifically of a cycle of “small, intimate, social-realist films,” which he adds “didn’t travel very well. I think that this new wave of Australian filmmakers is interested in moving in a different direction, and in embracing genre.”
Animal Kingdom is unapologetically a genre film: A moody crime drama about an orphaned teen (James Frechette) gradually drawn into the criminal activities of his extended family.
“I moved to Melbourne from Sydney when I was 18,” explains Michod, “and I was reading a lot about its criminal history. I was particularly engrossed in these books by a guy named Tom Noble, who used to be a police reporter in the 1980s. It was a very colourful period — the last days of these dangerous armed robbery crews, and their feud with these hardened, old-school armoured robbery cops.”
Although it’s loosely based on a true story, Animal Kingdom most strongly evokes the fictional work of American film directors like Michael Mann and James Gray. “I’ve obviously absorbed a world of influences, and they might be subliminally visible in the film,” says Michod. “But I definitely wasn’t working from anybody else’s template.”