'Around the Block' Director Wrote from Experience31 Jul, 2014 By: Chris Tribbey
It was while teaching at an Aboriginal arts college in Redfern — an inner-city suburb of Sydney — that Around the Block writer and director Sarah Spillane began writing her feature debut. And she already knew who she was writing it for.
“The casting process happened over a number of years, and when the film was green-lit, I knew who I wanted, who I wrote the [lead] role for,” she said.
Christina Ricci (Monster, The Opposite of Sex) was who Spillane wanted and who she got for the role of an American drama teacher who moves to Redfern to be with her fiancé, and takes a job producing a school play as part of an indigenous cultural program.
Set during the 2004 Redfern riots (which were sparked by the alleged police killing of a 17-year-old boy), the film sees Ricci’s character discover one student (played by first-time actor Hunter Page-Lochard) who has a natural acting gift. But his troubled family environment could prove too much to overcome.
“It’s a story about family, but in a very unique setting,” Spillane said. “It’s accessible, and it’s Christina Ricci in a role you’re not used to seeing her in.” Spillane laughed when discussing how nervous Ricci was with the role, which was unlike anything she had done before.
“She was quite fearful because she could never imagine herself in a classroom full of kids,” Spillane said. “It was horrifying to her.”
Out on disc and digital Aug. 5 from Random Media and Cinedigm Entertainment Group, the DVD for Around the Block (which also stars Jack Thompson from Man from Snowy River, Damian Walshe-Howling from “Terra Nova” and model Ruby Rose) isn’t your standard fare when it comes to independent titles: It’s packed with bonuses, including a filmmakers commentary, deleted scenes, a behind the scenes featurette, and a music video for “Broken Wings.”