Upcoming Adelaide film: disability, angst and employment

Posted 9 months ago by David McManus
Writer/director Pete Williams hosted the cast and crew screening for ‘EMOTION IS DEAD’ (2023) on August 10, 2023 [Source: Supplied]
Writer/director Pete Williams hosted the cast and crew screening for ‘EMOTION IS DEAD’ (2023) on August 10, 2023 [Source: Supplied]

The Talking Disability editorial staff found the humour riveting and the soundtrack to be full of palpable playlist staples. Nothing beats a story that can make you cry in one scene, smile in the next and chuckle at the following sequence.

Key points:

  • Pete has produced a huge range of television and digital content in the United Kingdom, United States and Australia over the past decade
  • The award-winning director worked on ‘Fearless(2022), Disney+; ‘Making Their Mark’ (2021), Amazon Prime Video; ‘The New Breed’ (2020), SBS and ‘Show Me The Money’ (2022), Stan
  • ‘EMOTION IS DEAD’ was inspired by the South Australian Holden plant closure in 2017


The ‘EMOTION IS DEAD’ cast and crew screening, at The Piccadilly cinema in Adelaide on August 10, received a standing ovation as the credits rolled. The film, a passion project from writer-director Pete Williams, took aim at the impact of disability, class and the power of employment in Australia.

The film’s protagonist, Brock, is a skateboarding prodigy and disaffected teenager from a lower socio-economic suburb. The teen is implicated in a web of crime after stealing some data from an underground syndicate and must rely on his edgy girlfriend, along with his mum who lives with disability, to get by unscathed.

Several actors in the film were prominently featured who live with disability and Williams’ didn’t shy away from making it a central theme for the characters. The decision to depict disability in a story about employment, wealth and privilege is something Mr Williams said was crucial to critiquing the system.

“There’s one line of the film that people find very hard to listen to,” the director told Talking Disability journalist David McManus Jr, “it’s the rich guy, Wayne, talking to his son.”

“The son asks, ‘why would anyone want to live out here, dad?’ [The dad] goes, ‘it’s not a choice, son. It’s — the poorer you are, the s___ter the place you live. It’s the only social justice we have left.’

“That’s a cringe moment, but I think that verbalizes the evil side of this discussion, which is the inequality within the system.”

Pete said the casting for ‘EMOTION IS DEAD’ was important for the filmmaking process.

Isi Sweeney, an actress with Down syndrome, played the role of Dani — the sister of the main female protagonist — a hairstylist and source of boundless positivity in otherwise tense scenes.

“She was amazing. Her Ability to change from who she was to who the character was in a split second was just phenomenal,” Mr Williams recalled.

“When we do write those characters into the script, they should be played by people that actually have disability, to give opportunities for people with that disability to become actors and have acting careers — just be authentic about the whole experience.”

Brock’s mother, played by actress Gabby Llewelyn, dubbed ‘Shazza’ — is depicted as living with a mobility condition which requires the use of a walking frame following a workplace injury.

“I worked on ‘Paramedics,’ which is a Channel 9 TV show, as the story producer here in Adelaide and I went to workplace injury situations and saw the reality of that — where people’s lives can be changed in an instant.”

Mental health was also top-of-mind for the creative direction of ‘EMOTION IS DEAD,’ as the main character seems to disassociate over the course of the story, dealing with depression, anxiety and grief. The character is often seen relating to music more than his peers and frequently found solidarity in those who are doing it tough.

Characters, even in passing, are shown to use prosthetic limbs or live with disability — something Pete believed to be a testament to the film’s authentic depiction of life in suburban SA.

“If you have a physical disability or mental disability, you can get stuff done. You can create things; it might take longer and it might not be done in a traditional way but it’s still possible for anybody in this world to create,” Mr Williams concluded.

To stay up to date with the latest information, please check out cinematographer Johanis Lyons-Reid and Pete Williams’ websites for future announcements.

The film is expected to have a world premiere following selection for a major film festival, with several more festivals on the horizon after October.


Do you have a favourite film that prominently features disability? What would you like to see represented in cinema? Let the team at Talking Disability know your thoughts through social media or in the comment section below.