Interview with Heart Of The Man director, David Cook

Interview with Heart Of The Man director, David Cook
Image: HEART OF THE MAN film still.

Heart Of The Man is a beautifully written and highly emotional Australian LGBTQ+ coming-of-age drama. The story surrounds an 18-year-old man of indigenous heritage named Chris Wundurra, who is torn between his sexual identity and living his father’s dream of being a professional boxer.

Chris is secretly attracted to a young man he sees in the gym;  he hides this from his father as he’s expected to be a ‘warrior’ at a national boxing championship.

Chris is only boxing to please his father, but is it wrong for his life to take a different road?

HEART OF THE MAN film still.

David Cook who stars in the pivotal role of Sammy, Chris’ headstrong father, explained that he based the movie on segments of his own life.

“The movie is a coming-of-age story about identity. A lot of it I drew upon my own life. I wanted to tell some of what I had been through as a young man and so it was like a love letter to myself and a journey of healing.”

Cook is also credited as the writer, producer and director of the project and when asked whether he found it difficult combining all four roles he was quick to respond.

“I didn’t go in planning to wear all those hats, but the nature of low budget independent filmmaking is that you just have to get it done. It was difficult, I enjoyed it, and it was a learning process, but if I had hair, I probably would have pulled it all out!” he laughed.

HEART OF THE MAN film still.

Receiving funding was difficult and it would have taken time, so Cook decided to go private equity. He was the primary investor and a few friends also invested in the project. Cook felt there was an urgency to tell the story now rather than wait to see whether their project would have been granted funding some nine months down the track.

This movie was filmed over 26 days, but there were pauses in production owing to the Brisbane floods and the Queensland Covid-19 peaks. Also, it was filmed on a very small budget but visually, what audiences experience on the big screen, looks like it had a multi-million-dollar budget. Cook attributed this to a combination of the production design, locations, wardrobe and the colour grading.

HEART OF THE MAN film still.

Up and coming young actor Parker Little, through his brilliant performance as a confused and anguished young man, has established himself as an actor with a bright future.

“Parker and I acted in an independent horror film a few years ago and I remember thinking, who is this kid? He was 16 at the time and I thought wow! He’s a star! I got to know him very well and I wrote this movie with him in mind.”

Roxanne McDonald, who plays the role of Sammy’s mother, is a veteran of theatre and shines in her small role.

HEART OF THE MAN film still.

“I met her in Brisbane, and she reminded me of my mother. I couldn’t look at her properly and I thought this was really weird. I was compelled and needed to work with her. You act with her, and she just pulls you in!”

Overcoming adversity is the primary theme that resonates throughout the movie. What is your truth, who are you, what do you want to do with your life and spiritual identity are also themes that reverberate strongly.

When asked what he hoped audiences would learn from watching his movie Cook paused momentarily.

“To have more empathy – consider that people are going through things that you don’t know, so be kind and ask people how they are going. Also, find what excites you and follow that.”

Heart Of The Man premiered in Brisbane late February and will screen at the Inner West Film Festival in Sydney.

HEART OF THE MAN film still.

“There are a number of different film festivals and screenings that we’re also locking in at the moment and we’re in talks about limited theatrical releases. Then we’ll be looking at one of the major streaming services as we want people to see this movie, as it’s homegrown, has an important message and is a nice little Australian film,” concluded Cook.

Screens April 21 at Palace Norton St as part of the Inner West Film Festival.

Limited screenings to be announced at a later date.





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