The 2019 ReelAbilities Pittsburgh Film Festival is turning the spotlight on the work of Australia's Bus Stop Films, an impressive non-profit effort "dedicated to building the confidence, English skills and life ready skills of people with an intellectual disability and others from marginalised communities, through giving them access to a ‘film school experience’."
Screening multiple Bus Stop Films efforts during the 2019 festival going on from September 4-11, none may be as touching and impressive as this one, The Interviewer, a beautifully rendered and emotionally honest film starring Winston Cooper as Thomas Howell, a lawyer interviewing at a prestigious law firm who gets much more than he bargained during the interview when it comes to his unexpected encounter with one James Dexter (Gerard O'Dwyer).
The Interviewer had its world premiere at the 2013 Flickerfest Short Film Festival. The story behind the film is rather magnificent...over a twelve month period, students from the Bus Stop Films held workshops at Sydney Community College, working alongside director Genevieve Clay-Smith and guest mentors from the film industry to learn how to make a film, from developing a script, understanding mise-en- scène, casting actors, running a set and delivering their very first short. It was an entirely inclusive process from start to finish.
The finished product? Simply extraordinary.
The film has won over 30 awards and screened at over 40 festivals, its central inclusivity only one part of its charm and entertainment value as writer/co-director Genevieve Clay-Smith has crafted a film that genuinely entertains alongside its embrace of diverse casting.
Gerard O'Dwyer is once again an absolute gem, perfectly cast as James Dexter, whose unorthodox interviewing techniques are borne out of one little secret yet are precisely what is needed for the job. The script here is spot-on perfect and O'Dwyer delivers it all quite beautifully by capturing Dexter's disarming sincerity and precise insights.
As Thomas Howell, Winston Cooper (Happy Feet) is also an absolute gem. At first caught off guard by this most unusual interview, Howell's Cooper eventually gives himself to it with rather delightful results. Chris Haywood and Laurence Brewer are also quite good in supporting roles.
Julain McGruther's original music is energized and whimsical, while Henry Smith's lensing similarly embraces the film's insightful whimsicality.
Screening alongside The Interviewer during the festival is a wonderful Making The Interviewer that is not to be missed as it will most assuredly give you an even deeper appreciation for the film.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic