:: The Combination
This is a film that tells the story of a Lebanese Australian family and their place in urban Australia. It is set in western Sydney, a setting not really known for Australian filmmaking. John Morkos (George Basha) is released from prison intent on a new life, free of his old ways. However, his younger brother Charlie (Firass Dirani) has being lured by the local underworld. Amongst a gang led by Zeus (Ali Haidar), Charlie’s life oscillates between the schoolyard punch-ups and the gangland streets of his neighbourhood.
John meets Sydney (Clare Bowen), an Anglo-Australian girl, and he finds a job at the local boxing gym. His life becomes challenged. But it is Charlie’s continuing descent into crime that places his whole family in harm’s way. John needs to do something to try and correct Charlie's wrongs.
This is veteran actor David Field's first feature film as a director. It lives up to his no-nonsence, unflinching personality in looking at the realities of racial tensions amongst youth gangs in suburban Australia. This powerful and deeply affecting film pulls none of its punches. Clearly at home with this aspect, Field does take a little time to get to grips with the love story. As the film progresses though, the chemistry builds between John and Sydney and this cuts into the race debate also, with Sydney's parents taking the racial line and trying to end the relationship.
While the film is raw and gutsy, it’s also very finely polished. The dialogue is authentic and the actors have an incredible burning ambition to make this work. The fact that the cast is made up of a bunch of relative unknowns from western Sydney is a credit to Field and Basha. Credit also to Basha for his finely worked script. He has also created a unique style of his own
The film captures the underlying racism that has been witnessed by many Australians. The film is an excellent snapshot of the bubbling tensions that came into the spotlight with the Cronulla riots a few years ago. This educational aspect is one that can foresee The Combination being an excellent film for teenagers to study. It’s certainly relevant, and I’m sure it’s something that many of them would relate to. The Combination is an excellent portrait of kids growing up in multicultural Australia. It’s worth pointing out that it took six years to secure the funding to make the movie and the filmmakers' devotion has paid off in spirit at least.
The Combination is real, topical, honest and gripping. You can tell that everyone on screen has lived and breathed the story themselves. This film deserves to be seen by the wider Australian community.