Christina Ricci stars as an American teacher who takes a troubled inner-city Sydney youth under her wing, in this gritty, unflinching yet inspirational debut feature by Australian director Sarah Spillane.



Around the Block

Sarah Spillane

Sarah Spillane's screenplay for Around the Block won an Australian Directors Guild Award before it even went into production, and her original script provides the foundation for this remarkably strong directorial debut. Energetic, fearless, and informed by Spillane's personal experiences, the film takes an uncompromising look at the lives of a teacher and a student struggling to find themselves in the gritty streets of Redfern, an inner suburb of Sydney that's home to the "block" of the film's title.

Dino Chalmers (Christina Ricci), an American living with her Australian fiancé, is a first-time teacher eager to bring her love of Shakespeare to the vastly diverse student population of a tough school. Her attention soon turns to Liam (Hunter Page-Lochard of Bran Nue Dae, which played the Festival in 2010), an Aboriginal student trying desperately to stay on course despite the fact that his father (Matt Nable) and brother (Mark Coles Smith) are criminal royalty in Redfern. Dino and Liam both become isolated, struggling with issues of identity, race, sexuality, and relentless societal and cultural pressures, to discover — almost too late — that the key to freedom for each of them may lie in the spirit of the other.

Stories centred on dreams and hope need an unflinching, unsentimental hand, and Spillane guides her talented cast through deeply dramatic waters with a steady emotional rudder. Lanky, handsome and thoughtful, Page-Lochard has the charisma of an emerging star; together with Coles Smith and Nable he creates one of the most powerful familial triangles in recent cinema.



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