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Byron Shire
May 18, 2024

Film a good laugh and helps a cause

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Luis Feliu

In their own small way, the 300-odd people who packed a Tweed cinema last night for an advanced charity screening of Mental, which was mostly filmed in the Tweed, were helping to improve the sanitation and quality of life of children in Africa.

And it’s probably a more cost-effective way of helping the poor there than a Live Aid concert.

The fundraiser, hosted by Tweed Shire Council, will benefit the Tweed Kenya Mentoring Program which provides safe drinking water to several Kenyan villages. Just over $3,000, half of which was raised by ticket sales and the other half matched by council, will go directly to the project supported by council staff and volunteers.

Special guest at the event, actress Lily Sullivan, who plays Coral in the film, told Echonetdaily she was happy to be part of such a good cause, having travelled from home in south Brisbane with her mum and friends just for the occasion.

Mental, rated MA15+, is the latest film by Tweed-born and -raised writer-director PJ Hogan, following on from his previous smash hit Muriel’s Wedding, which was also autobiographical in nature.

Released today in cinemas across Australia, it was given the thumbs-up by many after last night’s showing at Hoyts Cinema in Tweed City of the film, which features many local buildings and scenes including Mt Warning, Murwillumbah and Banora Point.

The film reunites Hogan with Toni Collette, his original leading lady in Muriel, and has an award-winning cast including Anthony La Paglia, Rebecca Gibney, Liev Schreiber and Deborah Mailman.

Mayor Barry Longland, who introduced Lily to the audience before the film, said it was ‘entirely reasonable’ for locals living ‘in a beautiful place in a lucky country’ to ‘afford this connection with the Kenyan community’ to provide expertise to the poor villagers.

Cr Longland said the collaboration was ‘something to be proud of’ for Tweed residents.

Big break

Lily, 19, who lives in Logan south of Brisbane, said coming down to the Tweed for filming was like travelling to a ‘mini holiday destination’, with many of the scenes shot in PJ Hogan’s childhood home.

The young actress told Echonetdaily that Mental was her ‘first job and first acting experience’ so it was ‘really confronting but amazing’.

Lily said she felt incredibly lucky to get the ‘break’ with Mental, when she was chosen to audition on the basis of a homemade clip and photos she sent in for an open casting call, and urged other aspiring young actors to do the same.

She said she did a little acting at school to build her confidence and some modelling experience gave her experience in front of cameras.

‘I was going to university, but this happened, which is incredible; I’m so lucky.’

Lily is currently taking a gap year from her university acting studies.

She said that working with such heavyweight talent as la Paglia and Collette was ‘like I had the most incredible acting talent in Australia as my acting coaches; they were truly mentors for me’.

‘And having PJ direct and write – he’s so close to the story, so that was a good thing because any questions I had I just went straight to PJ and he had all the answers,’ she said.

She described the film as ‘hilarious’, about the ‘average dysfunctional family that everyone can relate to’.

In the film, La Paglia plays the mayor of ‘Dolphin Point’, called Barry Moochmore, and Collette a hitchhiker called Chaz who becomes nanny to his five daughters, some of who have undiagnosed mental issues.

PJ (Paul) Hogan is the son of the late former Tweed deputy mayor Tom ‘the Toiler’ Hogan, and the story, like Muriel’s Wedding, is loosely based on his family.

PJ attended Mt St Patrick’s College in Murwillumbah before becoming an internationally acclaimed director. He returned to Australia to do Mental after spending almost 20 years in the US.

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