Oscars: Australia Selects 'Buoyancy' for International Feature Film Category

Bouyancy Still - H -2019
Credit: Causeway Films

Rodd Rathjen's human trafficking thriller filmed in the Thai and Khmer languages has won awards at the Berlin and Melbourne International Film Festivals

Australia has selected Buoyancy, the debut feature from writer-director Rodd Rathjen, as its contender for the 2020 Oscars in the international feature film category.

Inspired by real events, the brutal yet realistic thriller, shot almost entirely at sea, is the story of 14-year-old Cambodian Chakra who leaves home in search of a better life, but finds himself enslaved on a fishing trawler. 

Buoyancy is produced by Causeway Films’ Sam Jennings (Cargo) and Kristina Ceyton (The Nightingale, The Babadook), with Rita Walsh (I Used to be Normal: A Boyband Fangirl Story). 

The film is being released in Australian cinemas Sept. 26, with Cambodian and French cinema releases to follow in October and November. 

"The experience of making a film in Cambodia was life-changing and it was an honor to work with cast and crew from Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar. This is a subject incredibly close to my heart," Rathjen said. 

National agency Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason added: "Buoyancy is a thought-provoking and moving story about human trafficking, but also a universal story of how poverty dehumanizes people. The creative team from Causeway Films have a great track record of creating powerful debut feature films that resonate with audiences locally and internationally. It’s a great privilege to submit this distinctive film to the Academy on behalf of Australia."

Buoyancy was the winner of the ecumenical jury award for films screened in the Panorama section of the 2019 Berlin International Film Festival, following up that honor with a top five audience award and a special mention for the critics jury prize for best Australian film at the Melbourne International Film Festival. 

Australia has submitted 13 films into the former best foreign language film category at the Academy Awards since 1996. Tanna in 2017 has been the only one so far to receive a nomination. 

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will announce the five nominations for the international feature film Oscar on Jan. 13. The winner will be announced Oscar night in Los Angeles on Feb. 9.