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CinefestOZ Film Festival

Headquartered in Busselton, CinefestOZ extends to Margaret River and Bunbury for extension premieres, additional screenings and a unique Schools Program.

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"Backtrack" (2015); Interview With George Shetsov


Writer/Director Michael Petroni's film “Backtrack” was sold to international territories at this year's EFM in Berlin by sales agent Bankside Films. The film tells the story of psychologist Peter Bower (Adrien Brody) who is himself troubled by a forgotten past that has come back to haunt him. Visited by ghosts of his childhood, Peter seeks to uncover his unconsciously buried memories. But the more he seeks the truth, the more his life and the lives of his family become endangered. “Backtrack” is a nail-biting psychological thriller of Hitchcockian proportions about the sins of the past coming to haunt us in the present.


In a recent interview with actor George Shetsov, this is what he had to say about playing the part of William Bower.

ME: Can you speak to us about the film “Backtrack” and what the film (from your POV) is trying to say?

GEORGE: I think this film says many things on different levels. I think the mark of any good film is that it can stand up to multiple viewings and each time the film reveals itself more and more- not only in its wealth of detail but in how it speaks to us- and for each of us there will be different meanings revealing themselves and these meanings will grow. For me, the strongest idea in the film is that truth will triumph no matter how well it is hidden or how deeply buried.

ME: Would you classify this film as a psychological thriller or horror or in another genre of its own?

GEORGE: I guess you could categorize the film as a psychological thriller playing with the conventions of a horror film. Yes, you can get a scare and you can also let the events gradually reveal themselves. The audience is constantly in a position to make decisions about what is going on and to solve the mystery. You constantly have to readjust your conclusions; its a tonally engaging film.

ME: What was it like to play Adrien Brody's father, especially looking so much like him?

GEORGE: Well, all I can say is that it's good casting. On set you don't even think about it. It's when I watch Adrien in his other films that I sometimes see an uncanny resemblance and even his gestures and posture make me look twice. Curiously, I don't even notice any resemblance in “Backtrack”. In the scenes with him it was the work that was the focus- a father and son dealing with their issues.

ME: For the most part, Americans struggle to fake an Aussie accent. Do you feel Brody did a believably Aussie accent in the film?

GEORGE: Yes, it was extraordinary! His accent was so good that I didn't even notice it. Accents can be tricky. You can have varying degrees of success. Adrien's was faultless. Getting the muscles around the Australian sounds may be more difficult for American actors but I don't know why.

ME: Was it hard to play an abusive father?

GEORGE: I really should not answer this question because it gives the film away and I don't want to create any spoilers. Much of the film's impact is about the revelation at the end. But, in answering a question about how you prepare for any role no matter what kind of character you are playing, I can say for myself that I start trying not to make judgments about the character and slowly discover what the writer gives me in the text. That's the base from which I start, then from there it is an exciting journey that combines research and imagination. It's such great fun.

ME: How have audiences in Australia received the film so far?

GEORGE: I have seen this film at only one Australian screening so far, and the response was excited and enthusiastic. It had people thoroughly engaged during the screening, and after. I think it's a film that stays with you after you have experienced it. You can't just dismiss it. There's a lot to sift through after the screening is over.

ME: The film held its Australian premiere at CinefestOZ. How was your experience at that festival?

GEORGE: “Backtrack” had its world premier at the Tribeca Film Festival and its Australian premier at CinefestOz. This is great film festival that is unique in many ways- it focuses on Australian film and is located in a very beautiful part of Western Australia. The atmosphere is very relaxed, people are warm and friendly and you get the opportunity to meet your audience. Further, the programming is interesting, diverse and very satisfying with a rich variety of films and events. The experience was a joy. It is one of the best Film Festivals I have experienced.

ME: The film sold to world territories during the American Film Market and now EFM in Berlin. Do you think the film will do well internationally?

GEORGE: Some Australian films do well on the International stage because of their "Australianess". There is something very unique, special and "exotic, " which captures your imagination. “Backtrack” reveals an Australia unlike any you have ever seen before- you see the landscape/city-scape with fresh eyes. That's the first thing I have to say. But the film is not confined by it's location; it is liberated from its location. Apart from the Aussie accent, the story could take place anywhere. It is a truly international Australian film, so it's the story itself that takes center stage. Who knows how the world will respond to this particular story.

ME: When did you start acting and did you always know this was your path?

GEORGE: I started acting professionally in 1972. It was the only thing I had ever wanted to do, although it was not an overriding obsession. I was lucky to be taught technique by Brian Syron, an Australian who had been an assistant to Stella Adler, and lucky too that my second job lasted four years in a theater company where I could consolidate and grow. I have other obsessions too, which I allow myself to pursue- in the 80s I lived in the outback for ten years, keeping in touch during that time and doing acting jobs once a year. That, I did not expect to happen.

ME: What will you be working on next?

GEORGE: At present, my heart is focused on the beauty and diversity of this remarkable country and planet, with what is left of it. So much has been destroyed and what is left is in danger. In terms of my work, I have at the moment one project to work on in 2016. It is an experimental dance/theater piece which explores Dementia, an initiative by some young dancers I have worked with a number of years ago.

Interview by Vanessa McMahon

View trailer here:

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