The Sydney Morning Herald Article
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The Sydney Morning Herald Article

The most unwanted terrorists

Kylie Northover

March 22, 2012

A scene from <i>10 Terrorists!</i

<div style=

> by Dee McLachlan.” />A scene from 10 Terrorists! by Dee McLachlan.

Dee McLachlan likes to confront controversial issues, none more so than in her latest film.

“I DO enjoy challenging topics,” Melbourne filmmaker Dee McLachlan says. If there was any doubt after her controversial 2007 sex slavery and trafficking film The Jammed, her new film,10 Terrorists! confirms it.

The Jammed was epic drama thriller on a topic that nobody really wants to look at – this is completely 180 degrees, but also on a topic no one wants to look at,” she says of the film, which debuts next week at the Comedy Festival.

Dee McLachlan (right) with actor Richard Cawthorne.Dee McLachlan (right) with actor Richard Cawthorne. Photo: Rodger Cummins

Shot in just eight days on a tight budget, 10 Terrorists! is as much a comment on our obsession with reality television as the post-September 11 world. Written, co-produced and directed by McLachlan, it follows 10 contestants vying for $1 million to put towards their own ”terrorist cause” on the reality show So You Want To Be A Terrorist, blending the fear of terrorism with the obsession of reality TV into ”comic combustion”.

”Even the word ‘terrorist’ is a persona non grata word,” McLachlan says. ”The more we put it out there, the more we realised how governments around the world and media spin have made it into this untouchable word. It’s been a really interesting process.”

The genesis for the film began years ago when McLachlan found herself angry over what was happening at Guantanamo Bay. She planned to write a film about two losers accidentally caught up in the post September 11 hysteria and mistaken for terrorists.

”But then Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Baycame out, and then Bush was voted out and then Howard … it was a real parody on that era of conservatism post 9/11 … but then as reality shows started to avalanche, one day I thought I’d combine the two.” Despite the minuscule budget (both McLachlan’s last two features were made without funding assistance), she attracted some big local names, among them Richard Cawthorne (who just won the AACTA award for best supporting actor for Killing Time), Sachin Joab (My Year Without Sex), and stage actor Matt Hetherington.

”As with The Jammed, I think the actors here were attracted to the challenge. I’ve got such admiration for actors because they put themselves out there at such risk.”

The 2010 British film Four Lions tackled similar subject matter to10 Terrorists! but McLachlan believes her film is the first such comedy.

Four Lions … was sold as a comedy but I thought it was quite a serious drama. I wouldn’t have put it into the comedy genre.”

Her film is, she says, without doubt, intended as a comedy.

”Although I think different audiences pick up different layers of the film. If you’re a reality TV viewer, then you’ll pick up all those little nuances of the shows; if you hate reality TV, then you’ll pick up something else and if you like Fahrenheit 9/11, you’ll pick up the subversive layer … if you’re just going out to see a comedy you’ll pick up the first layer of the film,” she says.

And then there might also be people who are just plain offended – at a recent test screening in South Africa there was a walk-out.

”I was devastated at the time but someone said it’s good,” she says. ”And then I sent it to a distributor in New York and she sent it straight back and said I’d offended her!”

Next month, the film will play at the Buffalo Niagara Film Festival in the US.

For its Australian debut, McLachlan says the Comedy Festival makes sense, given 10 Terrorists! crosses a few genres.

”It’s not a film in a particular box,” she says. ”And not really a festival film in a sense.

”Debuting at the Comedy Festival, too, I think we can get away with a bit more.”

A safer bet?

”Yes, I think it is. Although I think we actually held back,” says McLachlan, admitting she was hesitant about a big explosive scene. ”I thought, ‘should we be doing this?’ Then I think of what the world is at the moment – there’s 6 billion of us and a couple of governments hold the power to all these nuclear armaments, there are tens of thousands of nuclear weapons that we are not allowed to know about, or to investigate …

”A few people trying to protect us are actually potentially holding enough stuff to destroy us all.

”Those are the kind of deep subversive messages that answer the kind of craziness that’s in the film.”

10 Terrorists! screens in Melbourne every Friday during the Comedy Festival at Greater Union Cinema at 9pm.

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