One Less God: The making of an honest film about terrorism

Immersion: Central Coast-based actor Joseph Mahler Taylor, in the role of Sean, an Irish backpacker, in the film One Less God.When Central Coast filmmaker Lliam Worthington set out to make a movie basedof the terrorist attack on the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai in 2008, he tossed and turned about the best way to approach it.
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Worthington and co-producer Nelson Lau knew friendsinvolved in the tragedy, which saw terrorists kill 166 people and injured more than 600 over a three-day siege in the city, primarily in the stately old hotel. He read through accounts of survivors and others who described the carnage, the heroism and sheer terror of the event.

“I wrote lots of drafts,” he said, “but they were not active and truthful. They were survivor stories. They felt wrong and off. It took me sleepless nights to figure that out. There are some great stories of heroism and resilience.

“But the truth is, it is an overwhelming tragedy,” he said. “Most of the stories are of pain and suffering. To leave the audience in a happy place, the audience will park the story afterwards.”

One Less God trailerRather, Worthington chose to look closer at the issues confronting both the families of survivors, and the world overall. The pain had to be acknowledged, the basic question of mankind’s ability to survive such differences, such abhorrence, had to be present.

“For those people, who realise those questions are still facing us . . . once I realised that, it had to be truthful.”

The film,One Less God, wasshot over 63 days at the Carrington Hotel in Katoomba, and sets on the Central Coast and Sydneyas well as in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Challenge: One Less God film director Lliam Worthington on the set.

One Less Godwill screen on Saturday night at the Real Film Festival at Tower Cinemas on King Street, Newcastle. The session begins at 8pm and includes three short films. The movie, which is rated 18+, will be followed by a question and answer session with Worthington and other talent from the movie.

The movie won Best Film at the 2017 Byron Bay Film Festival and the Grand Jury Prize and Best Feature at the 2017 Dances with Films Festival in Los Angeles.

One Less Godfeatures an ensemble of mostly n actors, with the lead role of Sean, a backpacker strandedin the hotel, played by Joseph Mahler Taylor, an actor who also lives on the Central Coast.

The film is apolitical for the most part, with Worthington steering away from a blow-by-blow retelling of the sequence of events and government response and military action.

Instead, Worthington drills down on individuals.

House of war: A still from the movie One Less God, which is set during the 2008 siege of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai, India.

There is a grandfather and his granddaughter, played by SukhRaj Deepak and Mihika Rao, who have come to the city to visit the little girl’s mother, who is dying of cancer in a hospital. While we watch the grandfather comfort and console the girl at points in the movie, things come to a head near the end of the movie when a pair of gun-toting terrorists knock on their hotel room door.

With so many people involved, there are thousands of stories. Worthington admitted: “as a storyteller, you have to cherry-pick a few”.

“The story of protecting a child –it’s not just a physical reality, but a psychological reality, to rear our children and move our children forward,” he said.

Working on a limited budget, and not being able to access Mumbai during the making of the film, created its own set of obstacles.

“A big part of the challenge, was making it seem big,” Worthington said. “It’s a theatre of the mind.”

One major tool was the use of news footage of the terrorist attack, which makes it instantly feel real and fraught with danger.

One Less God director Lliam WorthingtonHouse of War in other markets, has a running time of 133 minutes.

Itwas released in Japan last week. It has been sold into Korea, China, UK, USA and .

Made by New Realms Films, based on the Central Coast, it was financed without government assistance.

One Less God will show incinemas in India in November, exactly 10 years afterthe siege in Mumbai.

One Less God screens at the Real Film Festival, Tower Cinemas, Newcastle, at 8pm on Saturday, October 27, followed by a Q & A session with director Lliam Worthington.