You don’t to get too many superhero stories at The Berlin Film Festival – let alone stories about Aboriginal superheroes. And so Cleverman represents something of a first. Even more so, perhaps, because it’s episodic TV. But playing in the Berlin Special strand, this major new Australian-New Zealand co-production is proof positive that quality television has a legitimate place at a film festival in this day and age.
Created by Ryan Griffin, the show stars Hunter Page-Lochard as Koen West, a young man living in a world divided into humans and “sub-humans” – or “hairies”, on account of their hirsute appearance – who have been confined to an area called The Zone. As Koen inherits special abilities that make him The Cleverman, a whole new world of power and responsibility opens up to him.
Griffin, who drew from Aboriginal folklore and even sought permission from Aboriginal elders, explained before the premiere that he wanted to take 60,000-year-old stories and “put them in a modern environment.” Commissioned by ABC Indigenous, the show’s arrival couldn’t be more timely, given the recent clamour in Hollywood for tales of diversity.
With four of the six episodes directed by Wayne Blair (The Sapphires), shot across twelve weeks around Sydney, the support cast includes Frances O’Connor and Game Of Thrones’ Iain Glen, as well as the Australian-born Hunger Games star, Stef Dawson. Still, it’s the beguiling Page-Lochard who is likely to draw all the buzz for a performance that has “cult following” written all over it.
Further evidencing just how strong television is right now, Cleverman is appearing in Berlin alongside illustrious company, with the Breaking Bad spin-off, Better Call Saul, premiering its second season curtain-raiser and the prestige BBC/AMC production, The Night Manager, also being shown.
Picture caption (L-R): Cast members Hunter Page-Lochard, Stef Dawson, Tasma Walton, Frances O’Connor and Deborah Mailman at the World Premiere of Cleverman in Berlin.
Take your first look at Cleverman below.