Contestants in the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest are counting the hours until competition begins – heats commence on May 9, in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, ahead of finals this weekend.
Also counting down is writer and director Bina Bhattacharya, who considers herself one of Australia’s most committed Eurovision fans, travelling to Eurovision 2015 to watch 2014 winner Conchita host the event.
Wild Dances, a short film written and directed by Bhattacharya, will be released on Sunday May 14 ahead of a “wild Eurovision grand final night party” in Sydney and simultaneously at the Ukrainian Club in Essendon, Melbourne.
Raised on Bollywood movies and bitten by the Eurovision bug in 2009, UTS alumnus Bhattacharya’s enthusiasm for the annual competition is shared by many Australians.
She says Wild Dances is dedicated to Australia’s unlikely love affair with the Eurovision Song Contest and its special place in bringing together gay and immigrant communities.
The film is set in 2004 when Ruslana wins the Eurovision Song Contest for Ukraine with her song Wild Dances. On the other side of the world, a shy, closeted gay boy and a spirited Ukrainian-Australian teenage girl team up to dance and “just be their wild selves”.
In researching her script, Bhattacharya explored what Eurovision means for immigrant communities, particularly the Ukrainian diaspora. She cast native Ukrainian speakers and engaged cultural and language advisers to ensure authenticity. The response from the community was overwhelming.
“I put a call-out on the Ukrainian Council of NSW Facebook page for native speakers who could act and my phone did not stop ringing for a week,” she says.
“And every person I spoke to could remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when Ruslana won.
“People who dismiss Eurovision often haven’t thought a lot about what it would mean to people who are living on the other side of the world, far from their culture and their homeland.”
Bhattacharya also received the blessing of Eurovision itself – the contest’s executive supervisor, Jon Ola Sand, allowed her to use the brand name, archival footage and Ruslana’s winning song.
The production is testament to the power of collaboration between past and current students. Bhattacharya is a graduate of the UTS media arts and production program; another UTS alumnus, Robert C. Morton, is director of photography. Current student Lachlan Parry plays the lead role of Todd and the crew includes several students. Extras have been recruited from the UTS Backstage Theatre Society.
“For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to make movies,” says Bhattacharya, who “directed” her first film at her seventh birthday party, with her father as cinematographer and her party guests as the cast.
Wild Dances will screen at a premiere party this Sunday, May 14, at Bear Bar, Haymarket, before the broadcast of the Eurovision Grand Final. To secure a place at the premiere or for your HD copy of the film, click here.