You will be forgiven for thinking that Knauf Australia’s Chief Financial Officer Russell Raihan spends all his time working with balance sheets and juggling mathematical formulae, but there is much more to him than meets the eye.
Russell is also a budding filmmaker who recently completed the production of a short film, 11th of April. And this is only the beginning. Russell dreams of producing a full length feature film one of these days.
We asked him a couple of questions.
The worlds of finance and film making seem very far apart. Where does your interest in film production come from?
My dad was a writer and I grew up in a Bangladeshi home where writers, actors and people from many different cultural organisations and backgrounds were always visiting. I have always loved this cultural environment. It inspired me to join a theatre group at a very early age and I acted in stage drama from Year 5 until my first year in Uni.
I loved acting and writing, but it was the storytelling behind it that really interested me. I later became drawn to visual media; cinema in particular, and I started to work in different media, mostly behind the scenes. I fell in love with it and lost interest in acting, even though I always stayed in touch with my friends in the theatre groups.
I then got involved in various film societies that organised film festivals. I also assisted in the production of TV and film projects, including the Bangladeshi movie The Clay Bird, which was the first ever Bangladeshi movie to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. I am still very proud of the moment when I first heard the news!
I watched movies every day during this time – sometimes up to six a day. The German, French, Indian, Iranian and Japanese ones were my favourites. I was studying Accounting at Uni, but I attended as many film festivals and discussions as my busy schedule allowed. That was the start. During this time I made a couple of short movies and organised and participated in various film festivals in Bangladesh and India.
But I really do love Accounting too. There is real beauty in the relationship between numbers that fascinates me.
What is your latest short film 11th of April about?
It is the story of a daughter who misses her dad on his death anniversary. She reminisces and tries to recreate childhood memories with her brother, but no matter how hard she tries, she knows that that “reality” has passed and will never return again. She tries to touch it and so bring her dad back, but she fails. It is a journey of acceptance and moving on.
The movie was written, produced and directed by me. It was filmed around Matraville, Botany and Palm Beach in Sydney. Currently I am showing the film to as many people as I can – including colleagues at work! The next step is to hopefully get it screened at a couple of film festivals.
What stories do you still want to tell?
I want to re-create the euphoria I knew when I was living in Bangladesh. I miss those days. I don’t romanticise moving to a new country anymore. I now know the hardcore reality of settling in a new country – a process that has taken me 18 years. It is also an experience that I love though!
I think it’s time to tell my stories and the stories that need to be told. I don’t think the movies I make now are very different to what I would have done if I was still in Bangladesh – only the characters, surroundings and the circumstances are probably different.
Australia is a very stable country and we haven’t experienced any major recent and obvious social changes, but underneath it all I think our society has changed a lot. I have lived here for only 18 years, but I can see that the Australia we know now is very different to the Australia I got to know when I first moved here. I don’t think Australian movies have adequately captured these changes.
That is what interests me – movies like The Castle that are so subtle, but address so many issues on so many different levels. Having said that, I wouldn’t mind directing a James Bond movie either, but my Bond would probably be different!
What’s next? Are you working on any other films?
I want to make three to four films in the near future to “get into it” and practice the art of storytelling on celluloid. Then I want to work solely on developing a script for an Australian feature. It is my dream to direct my own feature film within the next three to four years, or at least that’s the plan for now!
My favourite filmmakers are Wim Wenders, Werner Herzong (Germany), Yasujiro Ozu (Japan), Ritwik Ghatak, Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen (Indian subcontinent) and many more. I want to create film moments like those guys.