Rachael Lucas : Bondi Tsunami

A SURFING road movie made on a budget of credit cards by self-taught first-time Melbourne film director Rachael Lucas is being hailed as a cult classic.

Inspired by Australia's Japanese surfing subculture, surf films and the 1960s and '70s, Bondi Tsunami is part of a new wave of low-cost, DV-cam film-making.
Lucas, 29, describes the film as "Kabuki meets MTV meets The Wizard of Oz meets Monkey Magic".

It is a psychedelic road movie telling of four punked-up surfers, Shark (Taki Abe), Yuto (Keita Abe), Kimiko (Miki Sasaki) and Gunga Man (Nobu Hisa Ikeda) and their adventures along the east coast in a 1961 EK Holden.

The actors were all novices, there was no real script, no experienced film crew and the approach was distinctly bargain basement.

Crafted on a budget of $150,000, the costumes were bought from op-shops in Smith St for $800, the 1961 EK Holden was bought in St Kilda and the soundtrack features mainly Melbourne musicians.

Lucas's brother-in-law, Anthony Lucas Smith, was the producer, with sister Naomi Lucas Smith as assistant director.

Lucas lived out of a car for long periods while travelling the east coast shooting the "pop cinema fusion" film.

Despite this, critics have applauded the film's edginess. Critic Andrew Urban says the film is likely to be dubbed "the first major Australian cult classic of the 21st century".

"I think Mad Max was done in a similar way and that is the key. I think there is a direct correlation between self-funded films and those funded by the arts police -- they often can't pick a winner," Lucas said.

"My tools of trade were under $20,000 and once I got the equipment, it was pretty affordable -- the car was $6000, the camera was $6000 and we leased the computer. The interesting thing is audiences have no idea it is a cheap movie -- they have been completely fooled.

"I have employed every tricky angle to make it look expensive and despite the budget, quality was important."

Lucas, originally from Glen Waverley, studied visual and performing arts at Melbourne University and Victorian College of the Arts before creating a niche in music videos.

She sees the film as a lush east coast travelogue cum motion picture/fashion magazine done with a Japanese sensibility.

Lucas said Japan has a $5 billion annual surfing industry that she hopes will be attracted to the film.

While Australian film-funding bodies showed no interest in the project, and she has yet to land a major Australian sponsor, Lucas said Japanese contacts have been promising.

There is interest from Japan's biggest film distributor.

"We are hoping a bidding war will erupt," she said.

Lucas said the film appeals to all ages from a young, cool crowd to baby boomers.

Bondi Tsunami also broke down stereotypes of Japanese people and acknowledged Japan's influence on Australian culture, Lucas said.

It is one of the first Australian features to recognise Japanese as "cool global citizens, not dorky businessmen, World War II experts or karate experts", she said.

Now on a six-month national tour, Bondi Tsunami has enjoyed sellout shows in Byron Bay, Sydney and the Sunshine Coast.

It opened in Melbourne last week and is headed for Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia. The film will tour New Zealand and Japan next year and will be released locally and internationally on DVD in 2005.

Surf flick heads for cult status

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