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Diverse Screens filmmaker Maria Tran

Originally published on Diversity Arts:

Maximum Choppage and Tracer star Maria Tran is an actor, director and martial-arts specialist, credited with playing a lead role in the creative development of the Australian Vietnamese film movement. The Sydney Morning Herald’s Andrew Taylor said ‘Watching Maria Tran rain punches down on adversaries or scissor-kick across the cinema screen, it is hard to imagine anyone foolish enough to mess with her.’

We’re thrilled to have her creating a film for Diverse Screens and she took time out to tell us a little about the project.

What drew you to this project?

​I was always compelled to the action genre and this was the first time I used the superhero context ​to explore themes of filmmaking practices and their inclusion of cultural diversity in Australia.

What ideas did you explore in your film?

I got to raise the issues of whitewashing, cultural appropriation and tokenism in a momentarily subtle undertone of the making of the fictional movie The Subtractor. These topics are often avoided in the screen industry and often raised in the aftermath of film projects once they have been completed such as Ghost in the Shell, Avatar: Last Airbender and Dragonball Z.

Did the experience of working on this project change how you thought about your subject matter?

I knew about the subject matter and have had first hand experiences of it on various projects in Australia and I was always left feeling a void in me that I did the right thing for speaking out about the issues but time and time again felt the pressure of being an “outsider” and that speaking out meant that I was not a team player. This film project allowed me to channel a lot of my experiences into this fictional piece of work which gave me the opportunity to re-enact and dramatize the subtlety and variations of experiences in the industry that are often not told.

What is you filmmaking background?

My career has been crafted by numerous experiences working on film projects; from indie to mainstream and both in Australia and across Asia. I’m an all-rounder, acting, directing, producing, editing and have taught at AFTRS, Sydney Film School and various organisations and local councils. My speciality is the martial arts action genre and crafting various short form content around this.

About the film

Tran’s mockumentary The Subtractor beings when a Hollywood superhero movie arrives in Western Sydney, but questions are soon raised about assumptions of the movie-makers. ‘Things become questionable as the director, Ridley Whyte execute decisions that leave the lead actor ever more confused about his identity,’ says Tran. ‘In the meantime, a local activist is protesting on the production’s cultural appropriation practices.

The Subtractor explores ingrained issues of appropriation and cultural stereotyping, and managing to throw in some laughs and kick-ass martial arts to boot. An inside look at an ugly side of an industry that prides itself on inclusion from an insider and a must-see for anyone interested in spotlighting barriers to inclusion in our creative sector.


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