Telling a powerful story of human connection and unexpected friendship, independent Perth film The Xrossing is hitting select cinemas in Western Australia this month as it rakes in awards across the globe.
Starring Kelton Pell as a local Aboriginal recluse blamed for the death of a teenage girl, The Xrossing kicks off as a classic coming-of-age film. Suburban tragedy. Town blames outcast. Boy befriends outcast. Outcast becomes human.
Written by Carl Maiorana and featuring a stunning performance by first-time director Steven J. Mihaljevich as the film’s villainous gangster, Phoenix, the multi-genre film explores the often-heavy themes of race, redemption, and revenge.
“It became a story about how youth deal with blame and … hate amidst the absence of positive role models in their lives,” Mihaljevich told NIT.
The Xrossing centres on the friendship formed between local teen Chris (Luke Morgan) and reclusive Aboriginal man Bobby (Kelton Pell), as Chris learns ‘Black Bobby’ has been horribly misjudged.
“We wanted to tell a story about a young character … who tried to break that cycle,” Maiorana said.
“That kind of crossing over from youth to adult … I think that starts to happen when you start to be more responsible for your own actions, especially when those actions or decisions have negative consequences.
“It’s really hard to own up and say you got it wrong, and it’s even harder to right a wrong. But if you can do that, that’s part of being an adult and that’s what we wanted to get into the film.”
On board as executive producer of the film, The Backlot Perth owner Ian Hale founded Halo Films just two months ago to distribute independent films like The Xrossing.
“After realising the amount of work and effort that the whole team had put in to get to that point … I realised that the film deserved to be seen by the public in a cinema,” Hale said.
“Owning The Backlot Perth allowed me to start Halo Films and support the local industry, especially the unfunded films … that tend to slip through the cracks.
“Halo Films was formed to actually make a pathway for that to happen.”
Hale isn’t the only punter invested in the film; The Xrossing has already picked up two awards for Best Feature Film at Toronto Independent Film Festival and London Independent Film Awards, and a third for Best Editing at Paris Film Festival. The film has so far been officially selected for eight film festivals globally.
“In some ways we felt we were writing a very local story … but we do think, as proof in winning awards in Toronto and London, that the themes of human connection are universal,” Maiorana said.
“Ultimately, I think people deep down … still want to come together and have that human connection.”
His directorial debut, Mihaljevich said the global reaction thus far has taken him by surprise.
“We just focused on trying to make a good, honest story with authenticity … and people are resonating with it.”
Speaking to the film’s representation of racism in Australia, Pell told NIT he hopes non-Indigenous viewers take the chance to listen and learn.
“A good film will make you think and provoke a conversation,” he said.
“The importance of this film for me is that one young fulla who saw something else in Bobby, who saw a person with a past.
“There’s so many people out there who don’t know Aboriginal people, who assume Aboriginal people are this type of person.
“Truth be told, if you’re stuck out in the bush somewhere — only a blackfulla’s going to help you!”
Giving a powerhouse performance alongside a young cast, Pell awes as Bobby.
The Xrossing is now showing at The Backlot and select cinemas across Perth.
By Hannah Cross