Cannes beckons engineer
17 May 2013
A short film created by a University of Sydney engineering student has been selected for showing at this year's Cannes International Film Festival.
Alastair Donnelley, who was the cinematographer on the 21-minute film, is currently studying advanced mechanical engineering at the University's Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies.
Finding Manjushri is the story of a young monk who has embarked on journey of self discovery only to discover that the wisdom he seeks is much closer than he imagines, says Donnelly.
Produced on location in Bir, Himachal Pradesh, in northern India, Finding Manujushri was filmed with a cast of amateur actors drawn from a local community of Tibetan refugees.
Alastair says the preproduction stretched over 10 weeks, employing local tradesmen and craftspeople to produce sets, props and costumes under the supervision of Alastair and the film's director Dolma Gunther.
While the shoot itself only took 15 days it was complicated by the worst subcontinental monsoon in 15 years - and the vagaries of the Indian electrical supply system.
Alastair says the much-anticipated rough-cut of the film premiered in a tiny guest house in front of almost the whole village, much to the delight of the local cast and crew.
While Alastair says he and the crew feel honoured to have been invited to showcase their film at Cannes the entire production was a journey in itself, rich with cultural exchanges and common warmth.
"The film was made possible by the wonderful support of the local community and the efforts of a number of people, and I can't thank them enough. Orgyen Tenzang who plays Lodro, was a legend. He also translated the script into Tibetan. Everyone was terrific and cheerfully endured being soaked to the skin time and time again in freezing weather!"
Alastair never intended to produce the film. He had travelled to India for another job, but when that fell through at the last minute he took the opportunity to make Finding Manjushri.
"I had the accommodation and the time and thought 'well now I'm here, let's make a short film."
The entirely self-funded production has already won a number of short-film awards including the Best Narrative Award at the 2012 Third World Indie film festival, San Francisco and a New York Moondance Award.
Find out more about Finding Manjushri.
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