Screen: Family drama is also a knockout boxing film

 A young Italian-Australian finds himself torn between a woman, his family and a passion for boxing. Miguel Gonzalez talked to the creators of Two Fists One Heart.

Two Fists One Heart is director Shawn Seet’s first feature. His body of work includes Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities, The Strip, All Saints and The Secret Life of Us, among others. In spite of those years of experience and success in television, the transition to feature film was not a completely smooth ride. “There’s so much pigeon-holing happening, so much snobbery. I don’t want to sound bitter, but it was a little hard for me to make the transition, and it shouldn’t have been. People are always looking for the next young filmmaker, and if you’ve been doing television for a while, you’re branded as a ‘TV director.”

The opportunity to helm this film came when writer Rai Fazio (who also plays the main antagonist, ) saw his work in Dangerous and was impressed by the show’s level of reality and energy. Fazio asked producer David Elfick (Newsfront, Rabbit Proof Fence) to approach Seet, with whom Elfick had worked previously. “I wasn’t there right from the start of development, but the script resonated very deeply with me, particularly the father-son story.”

That story is ‘75% autobiographical, 25% fiction’, says the author. Fazio, a native of Perth is a former amateur boxer champion who was inspired by Sylvester Stallone, being ‘the only Italian kid at school who used to box’. Years later, retired from boxing and now a drama student, he had a chance meeting with actor Harvey Keitel in New York. Keitel told Fazio that ‘everyone’s got an idea, so if you’re passionate about it, write it’.

And so he did, although he admits he had never even read a script before writing this one. After consulting with his drama teacher, Fazio locked himself up in his room for three months, from where he emerged with a 165 page draft. More drafts followed, until a version reached a friend of David Elfick’s. The producer then saw the potential of the story. “What appealed to me is that it showed a positive view of young Australian males. [It says] you are your own person, there are parts of your parents that you like and you take, and others you don’t, and once you’re honest you can have a different kind of relationship,” explains Elfick.

Seet accepts there are similarities with other films dealing with families from diverse ethnic backgrounds and interracial relationships, but the main point of differentiation was their non-judgemental approach. “We’re showing the conflicts without looking down at the characters as a curiosity, so that the audience can relate to their stories rather than think ‘Oh my God, look at these strange Italians!’”

Shooting the boxing scenes was difficult, but the director decided to capitalise on ‘one of our greatest assets: our access to real boxers and the Perth boxing world’. Seet decided that every single actor getting into the ring should have real boxing experience, including his lead Daniel Amalm (Home and Away, Underbelly). “We didn’t choreograph it to the nth degree, with fake punches… there was a lot of connecting; the boxing had its own life, and that’s what makes it stand out from other films,” Seet says, adding that even if it can be considered a ‘boxing film’, it’s not necessarily a male-oriented one. “It’s got a big heart, and it will offer women an important insight into the male psyche.”

Buena Vista International invested in the production, but Elfick says that while [Australian MD] Alan Finney is an astute person from whose knowledge and opinions they could always learn, the production company – Palm Beach Pictures – retained total creative control of the project. Buena Vista International will also distribute the film.


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