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Australia has staged a genuine socially involved film for the Oscar race. Shown in the Discoveries section of the 35th Warsaw Film Festival Rodd Rathjenjest’s Buoyancy is a voice of opposition to modern slavery existing in the Far East (not only, of course, but in this case it is about that part of the world). Attracted by the vision of a better life, people set off in search of profitable employment, often reaching places of unimaginable exploitation – factories which walls have never heard of what health and safety is, or slave fishing boats, where fish are of greater value than human life.

In the Australian filmmaker’s film, a young 14-year-old boy from Cambodia is such a person. He decides to give up his hard work in his family’s rice field and sets out alone with his dream of raising capital. It will soon turn out that the rice fields were in fact the only paradise he could count on. First, he is thrown from car to car to unfortunately land on one of the fishing boats mentioned above. From now on, the dream of prosperity will be replaced by a hard struggle to survive in conditions where for brutally exhausting work one really gets only a bowl of rice.

Warsaw Film Festival – press materials

First of all, it is worth noting the Australia’s candidate submitted for the most recognizable film award in the world. After all, Australia is a country that has abused, not to use too strong words, human rights by sending many refugees looking for a better life back to Thailand or Indonesia. So one can read Buoyancy as the creator’s attempt of secular confession and doing part of justice to those hurt by a system.

Secondly, at a completely basic level, Rathjen is making viewers aware of how much the Western world is guilty of the murderous living and working conditions of many people living in the Far East. After all, the great food companies are indirectly responsible for their, and many other, tragedies.

The young hero has to fight a brutal battle with his dream and the image of a world in which prosperity is achievable. Capitalism is a system whose barbaric wildness is most clearly seen in places far away from first-world prosperity. At those places money is really a god. And everything is valued by its measure. Only man as such is worthless, and his work – despite the fact that this whole system is based on it, and thanks to which someone in the West can eat a tasty fish from the Indian Ocean – is actually paid with a gracious permission for another day of life. Anyway, sooner there will be no fish than people willing to face their dream and play Russian roulette with fate.

Surprisingly, the Australian creator doesn’t strip his characters of hope. What’s more, he allows himself to interfere in a doomed – seemingly – fate of the young hero. In this way, however, on the surface Buoyancy does not lose its credibility, but becomes a bloody fairy tale that raises the question: how many human lives make up the value of money?

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Mateusz Tarwacki

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Laura Przybylska
Laura Przybylska