A vertical garden climbs up a nearby wall, sending green tendrils spreading like fingers towards the crisp winter sky. “West End is great because it feels like the Brisbane I used to know. I love the organic quality of the place.” Although the Brisbane born director has received international acclaim, there is something very unassuming about Ben Hackworth that makes him blend into the laid back 4101 environs.
Hackworth’s love of film stems from his early childhood. He quotes a pivotal point in his discovery as watching The Elephant Man and The Wizard of Oz. “I always liked the darker children’s films,” he laughs. It was not until studying Fine Arts and Acting in America that the budding filmmaker was exposed to a new array of cinema. There he discovered film can possess very little narrative and, like a novel, can work as a poetic piece. This premise inspired Hackworth, who has always had an interest in making films which leave audiences in reflection. “We are what we eat, and we are what we watch, therefore I want to make films that have some kind of beauty and respect the audience’s curiosity and sensitivity,” he said.
Returning to Australia, Hackworth completed a post graduate course at the Victorian College of Arts in Melbourne before returning to his local turf in Brisbane. “The film community is really supportive of each other here. My friends and I talk a lot about cinema. Unintentionally, a number of our last films all dealt with similar themes in different ways…repressed desire, trauma and ideas of family.”
These tropes are brought to light in Hackworth’s most recent film, Celeste. His acclaimed second feature stars Radha Mitchell, Nadine Garner, Thomas Cocquerel and Odessa Young. It is a poignant tale which centres around love and betrayal amidst the intoxicating world of opera. Filmed close to home, Celeste is set against the backdrop of the lush Paronella Park in tropical Far North Queensland. Following on from successful screenings all over the globe, Celeste has been hailed as truly encapsulating the best of Australian film.
When asked about the highlights of Hackworth’s career, one would expect him to answer with tales of glamorous screenings and awards, but instead the director replies, “When we are doing a scene and we capture a bit of magic.” Wanting young people to share in the magic of film is something he prioritises. As a teacher at JMC academy, as well as a guest lecturer at Griffith University, imparting the tricks of the trade to students is important to the director. “There’s something really giving about teaching. It gets you outside the ego of your own process.”
Hackworth has given his heart and soul to the thriving Brisbane arts community. His passion for his craft is unmistakeable. “Movies can be so many things. Theatre is great, but with movies you can create something that lasts forever.”
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