[Editor’s note: Product of Columbia is one of four film scripts / stories that comprise the multi-plot feature, AUSTRALIAN SPRING. This is the writer’s statement concerning the story]
A coming of age tale about an adopted ten-year-old, Peter, growing up on the edge of an Australian city. Based on my own childhood memories, the story explores the crucial and frequently troubled transitional period between childhood and puberty, when the child begins to discriminate more critically between what he has been told is case and what he suspects might really be the case. It is a time of questions and doubts, some of which appear to be irresolvable.
In a complex world where not everyone’s perceptions can be objectively validated, Peter is forced to come to terms with what is unknown and seemingly unanswerable, and in the process takes his first tentative steps into adulthood. Set over one, long Australia Day weekend, with his father away on a trip to relocate the family’s dog, Peter breeches his parents’ rules by wandering into the town rubbish tip where he discovers something horrible: a discarded hessian bag with a dumped animal tied inside, struggling to escape.
Afraid and confused, and lacking the courage to open the bag and release the creature,Peter cuts and runs without learning the bag’s awful secret. Returning home, he is unable to tell his mother, Marion, what he has stumbled upon for fear of getting in to trouble for disobeying her and his father rules. Caught in a trap created by his own wilfulness and deceit, his inner torment and guilt grow as he learns from a neighbour boy that Peter’s father was at the tip earlier that day, supposedly to dump some hard garbage before continuing on to take the dog to its new home, en route to a fishing trip with old mates. Peter’s circumstances as an adopted child accentuate the internal pressure cooker of guilt and paranoia, added to Peter’s own abandonment issues that slowly build to a breaking point as the weekend’s events unfold.
Suspecting his father of dumping the dog and lying about taking it to some friends up north, and unable to confront either of his parents with what he saw, Peter is set upon an emotional and physical journey to uncover the truth for himself, a journey that is rich in subtext. At stake is his innocence and the trust he has always had in his father and mother, Would they lie to him? The whole fabric of his universe as a child is in danger of unraveling, revealing an all too adult world of uncertainty, lies and terrible secrets. Peter’s story deliberately lacks a clear resolution, as its real power resides in the questions it provokes and the seemingly contradictory evidence it offers. What he ultimately comes to believe about the contents of the bag is anyone’s guess, and while we grapple to decide for ourselves what is really the case, we cannot escape the vivid realization that the life of an adult is not about embracing easy answers to easy questions but in meeting difficulties head on and working how effective and courageous ways of dealing with issues that very often have no clear-cut solutions. I hope you enjoy my original screenplay, and thank you for taking the time to read it.
Andrew Brittain 24/10/2014
LOCATION STILLS – BINALONG, NSW (Shoot starts early April 2016)