Lauded film with local flair to hit 'Bridge's big screen

Film producer and former local Kieran Altmann will bring his pride and joy, Shiva Baby, to Murray Bridge's big screen next weekend.

The feature film, made in Brooklyn, New York in August 2019, follows young woman Danielle as she attends a shiva (Jewish funeral) with her parents.

Upon arrival, she is accosted by estranged relatives about her looks and lack of post-grad plans, while her ex-girlfriend is applauded for getting into law school.

Her day takes an unexpected turn when her sugar daddy arrives with his wife and baby.

Danielle struggles to keep up different versions of herself, fend off pressures from her family and confront her insecurities without losing it.

It stars Rachel Sennott, Molly Gordon (Booksmart, Good Boys), Dianna Agron (Glee), Fred Melamed (A Serious Man, Brooklyn Nine Nine) and Polly Draper (Obvious Child).

Kieran is one of three producers of the film, which is directed by Emma Seligman, who he met when they were both went to university in London in 2016.

They met up again in 2018, when Emma visited Kieran's housemate Katie Schiller, and the trio became the producers of Emma's movie, Shiva Baby.

Kieran, who is 26 years old, said the whole experience had been - and continued to be - incredible.

"We have an astronomically talented cast and crew, so spending 12 hours a day with them for a month was fantastic, the energy in the room on each day was addictive - although it wasn't without a lot of stress," he said.

The film was premiered at South x Southwest Film Festival, usually held in Austin, Texas, which he said was the first big 'wow' moment for him.

"Getting that acceptance email was really gratifying for everyone involved with the movie," he said.

"It was also a really special full circle moment because Shiva Baby is based on a short film of the same name which premiered at South x Southwest in 2018."

But just before it was meant to run, coronavirus halted the festival and it was switched to an online format.

"It was pretty devastating - my parents were actually already in the US and had travelled from Murray Bridge to attend," Kieran said.

Kieran Altmann, centre, with family members Helene, Martin, Fiona and William at the Adelaide Film Festival, where Kieran saw Shiva Baby for the first time. Photo: Supplied.

Kieran Altmann, centre, with family members Helene, Martin, Fiona and William at the Adelaide Film Festival, where Kieran saw Shiva Baby for the first time. Photo: Supplied.

The film's first public screenings were at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in September, but Kieran's first time seeing it on the big screen wasn't till a month later, at the Adelaide Film Festival.

"Shiva Baby was supposed to have its world premiere in the USA earlier this year but the film festival was cancelled due to the coronavirus, so seeing it at the Palace Nova in Adelaide in October was the first time I was able to see it in cinemas, and to be surrounded by family and friends for that was really special," he said.

On Wednesday, December 2, it was announced Shiva Baby had won the Audience Award for Feature Fiction at the Adelaide Film Festival.

Kieran has been blown away by both the critical response and audience response.

"I think as a cast and crew we knew we were making something special during the filming, but you can never really predict how an audience is going to react no matter what," he said.

"We've now played at film festivals in the USA, Canada, Argentina, Mexico, France, and Australia, and while the film is specific in its setting to the American Jewish community, the themes and characters are very universal, which has allowed audiences across different languages and cultures to enjoy the film.

"Critically speaking, I think the film is on something crazy like 97 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes."

It has been picked up by Utopia Distribution for worldwide distribution, so it should hit Australian cinemas sometime mid to late 2021.

But there is a chance to see the film this year, with a screening and Q&A with Kieran at Murray Bridge's Cameo Cinema at 4pm on December 12.

"Growing up in Murray Bridge I spent a lot of my weekends and school holidays in the Cameo Cinema seeing both independent Australian films and international blockbusters - it's where my love for movies was born and I have so many fond memories there, including going to the movies with my grandfather, Dr Frank Altmann," he said.

"He is no longer alive but I like to think he'll be sitting there in the audience watching Shiva Baby with the rest of us.

"I'm also excited to bring my first movie back to where it all began; the wider Murray Bridge community has always been really supportive of me and my move to New York, so it's going to be a lot of fun to celebrate with the community that has known me my entire life."

Critically acclaimed films Another Round and High Ground will also be screening at the Cameo the same weekend as part of the Adelaide Film Festival's rural program Curate Your Own Film Festival.

A still from the feature film 'Shiva Baby'. Photo: Supplied.

A still from the feature film 'Shiva Baby'. Photo: Supplied.

Kieran said he had always been a storyteller, which he partially credited to his parents, Martin and Fiona.

"When I was younger - very young - I wrote little story books and tried to sell them for a dollar or two in our driveway, and then as I got older I started to teach myself screenwriting," he said.

"I probably get those traits from my parents - Mum and Dad will often be one of the first to be handed a microphone at a community event or family occasion to entertain the crowd, so storytelling is definitely in my blood."

He was inspired to delve into filmmaking after walking out of a cinema, having just seen 2010 crime drama film Animal Kingdom.

"I'm not sure filmmaking was ever truly what I knew I wanted to do until perhaps year 11 or 12 when I saw the Australia film Animal Kingdom in cinemas and I'm not sure exactly why but that film just made it all click - I think it was just a modern showcase of the filmmaking talent of Australia and I wanted to be a part of that," he said.

"So many artists and filmmakers go their whole careers trying to make their first movie, so for me to realise a life-long dream of producing a feature film already is quite surreal."

Kieran has ideas for films and TV mini-series he wants to make in SA one day.

"Murray Bridge is almost the perfect place to bring a film to: close to a major city, plenty of accommodation for cast and crew, and such a diversity of filming locations that some movies spend millions trying to create," he said.

"To make a film or TV series in the Murraylands would be the ultimate dream achievement... that and maybe an Oscar."

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