Award-winning First Nations filmmaker Warwick Thornton’s spiritual drama The New Boy wraps this week in regional South Australia, with major production funding from Screen Australia’s First Nations Department alongside Fremantle and Gretel Packer’s Longbridge Nominees, who join producers Kath Shelper for Scarlett Pictures; and Cate Blanchett, Andrew Upton, Georgie Pym and Coco Francini for Dirty Films.
Newcomer Aswan Reid has been cast in the titular role, alongside Blanchett, Deborah Mailman and Wayne Blair. An ensemble of new faces, including Shane Brady, Tyrique Brady, Laiken Woolmington, Kailem Miller, Kyle Miller, Tyzailin Roderick and Tyler Spencer, round out the cast.
Set in 1940s Australia, The New Boy is the story of a nine-year-old Aboriginal orphan boy (Reid) who arrives in the dead of night at a remote monastery, run by a renegade nun (Blanchett), where his presence disturbs the delicately balanced world in this story of spiritual struggle and the cost of survival.
Screen Australia’s First Nations Department provides major production investment in association with Screen NSW and the South Australian Film Corporation. Roadshow Films is handling distribution in Australia and New Zealand.
The First Nations Department first backed the project in development over a number of years.
Screen Australia’s Head of First Nations, Angela Bates, said: “We are proud to support the masterful Warwick Thornton together with an experienced creative team and talented cast on this film. With a subtle yet powerful script, The New Boy is a genre defying film that explores spirituality, culture and colonisation in a way we haven’t seen on screen before. I have no doubt it will resonate with audiences around the world.”
The film is produced by Shelper for Scarlett Pictures, Blanchett, Upton and co-producer Pym for Dirty Films, and De Maio (of De Maio Entertainment), with Francini serving as executive producer for Dirty Films alongside Packer for Longbridge Nominees.
Christian Vesper, President of Global Drama, Fremantle, commented, “The New Boy is a powerful story from the cinematic genius of Warwick Thornton, and we are honoured to collaborate with an outstanding group of actors and exceptional creatives to tell this compelling story. We all take this responsibility seriously and acknowledge that the power and success of The New Boy lies in the reclamation of Indigenous narratives and perspectives, where audiences from around the world can reflect and have meaningful conversations about the struggles for survival.”
Lorenzo De Maio, De Maio Entertainment added, “It’s an incredible joy to partner with Dirty Films, Scarlett Pictures, Longbridge Nominees, Screen Australia and Fremantle, to bring this extraordinary film to audiences worldwide and to support First Nations storytelling. Warwick Thornton has crafted a film with unique beauty and power, anchored by the incomparable Cate Blanchett, Deborah Mailman and Wayne Blair, alongside a cast of truly talented and inspiring young actors.”
Gretel Packer commented, “I am thrilled to be part of this magical project. It is both a heartbreaking and heart-warming story, being brought to the screen by such a brilliant team of passionate and talented artists. It is a privilege.”
Thornton is one of Australia’s most celebrated filmmakers, most notably for his critically acclaimed Sweet Country, for which he won the Special Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival and the Platform Prize at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2017; and Samson And Delilah, for which he won the Caméra d’Or at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. Both films won the AACTA Award for Best Film. His authentic lens highlights him as one of cinema’s most treasured voices.
CAA Media Finance and UTA are handling sales for North America and The Veterans are on board to manage sales for the remainder of the globe.