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The Kingdom Glum
David Michôd, director of critically acclaimed Australian crime drama Animal Kingdom, talks to Roe McDermott about the Melbourne crime scene, Jackie Weaver’s Oscar nominated performance and why not going to therapy has helped his art.
Roe McDermott, 02 Mar 2011
Blame it on Home And Away or Crocodile Dundee, but for me Australian drama always conjures up images of incredibly cheerful blonde people whose daily activities consist of surfing and sunbathing. Unless they’re exceptionally unlucky that is, in which case they’ll have to dodge some sharks, a Wolf Creek-style psychopath or Baz Luhrmann’s love of stereotypes. But in David Michôid’s debut feature film Animal Kingdom, the darker underbelly of Australian society is exposed, without a “G’day mate!” to be found.
“Certainly for people back home, Australia has a rich criminal history. Melbourne especially,” says Michôid. “For me I felt that I was contributing to an already well-established genre, and have been pretty surprised to find that Melbourne’s criminal history is relatively unknown to the rest of the world.”
Originally from Sydney, Michôid moved to Melbourne when he was 18. Although he ended up living there for nearly a decade, he admits he found the city an incredibly intimidating place.
“I knew from all the news reports and what I’d heard that Melbourne, particularly in the ’80s, was a really weird, messed-up place. There were these long-running, really hardened gangs of armed robbers who basically ran the place and then a group of almost renegade police attempting to deal with the situation. And because they were dealing with serious criminals and had pretty much the hardest job of the police force, they themselves were pretty tough. So you had these two opposing groups of very determined, armed professionals warring. It was a scary time.”
For Michôid, it would also prove a creative one, as the idea for Animal Kingdom was planted and developed. His move to Melbourne came two years after the Walsh Street police shootings, where two policemen in their early 20s were gunned down in a suburb of Victoria. The level of antagonism between the gangs and police force was still palpable. These murders act as a turning point for the characters in Animal Kingdom.