Griffith film student sells documentary to ABC TV

ABC TV will screen a new documentary by Griffith Film School Masters student Jaina Kalifa – a career milestone for the emerging filmmaker.

Happy Android will air on the national broadcaster this weekend as part of its long-running Compass series, and will be available on ABC iView for the next month.

The 25-minute documentary has already generated buzz on the international film festival circuit, premiering at the prestigious Hot Docs Film Festival in Canada, winning the Supreme Jury Prize for Short Documentary and Best Short Director at the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival and picking up an Audience Award for Documentary at Cineglobe Film Festival in Switzerland.

‘It’s an important step in my career’

“I was so thrilled when I found out that the ABC wanted to broadcast the film,” Jaina said.

“This means that the film is going to reach a much wider audience. It’s already had a great festival run and picked up some awards so having a national broadcast is the cherry on the cake.

“It’s an important step in my career and should hopefully help me secure funding and collaborators for my next project.”

‘I created this film to spark a conversation about mental health’

The film follows Melbourne street performer Paul Cooper, who has entertained audiences around the world for the past 20 years in character as Tubby the Robot. The film explores Cooper’s battle with depression and anxiety, and the stark difference between bright and bubbly Tubby, and the man behind the costume.

Jaina first met Paul more than a decade ago while working as a street performer, and was keen to share his story on screen.

“I have a past life as a street performer and that’s where I initially met Paul. When I was looking for a new documentary project I set out to experiment and push my creative boundaries,” he said.

“We found going through the filmmaking process quite therapeutic for Paul. It’s a coming out in some ways, and he makes himself very vulnerable in the film.

“He is a bit nervous about the broadcast as it’s a big audience but he’s also excited about sharing his story and so am I.

“My mother is an art therapist, and I understand the power of the arts to transform trauma and to help manage emotions. I created this film to spark a different conversation around mental health.”

‘Enrolling in the Masters has been a really positive thing for me’

Jaina started making the film while completing his Master of Screen Production, and said the mentoring and connections formed at Griffith had helped shape the film.

“Enrolling in the Masters at GFS has been a really positive thing for me,” he said.

“It’s been great to work with some really excellent mentors and to build new connections with other Masters students.

“My main supervisor Peter Hegedus helped me throughout the development, production and post production of the project.

“I was also able to access mentors at Griffith Film School during the post-production process, including Trish Lake, Nico Meissner and Faramarz K-Rahber. Their input helped me identify the parts of the film that weren’t resonating and really helped to get the story working as well as it could.”

Jaina is currently exploring ideas for a feature documentary.

“I’m looking forward to making something longer and having more space to tell a story in a deeper and more complex way,” he said.

Happy Android will air on ABC TV at 6:30pm on Sunday 8 September.