Genna Chanelle Hayes is a young Australian actress with a vision.
She has starred in the likes of Rake and Charlie’s Farm, but it’s as a producer, writer and director at her own production company One Love Films that she truly shines.
A journalism graduate, Hayes creates films that enlighten and educate on current human rights issues, with the hope of increasing social awareness and triggering positive change. Through her art, she strives to make the world a better place.
Her film Surviving Bug – about women’s homelessness and domestic violence – screened at the prestigious Los Angeles Women’s International Film Festival earlier this year, and her latest film Wurinyan, is sure to be another conversation starter.
Wurinyan is about an Indigenous boy who moves from Darwin to Sydney on an academic scholarship to follow his dream of becoming Australia’s first Indigenous Prime Minister. The film boasts an all-star cast including Christine Anu, Mark Coles Smith (The Gods of Wheat Street), Peter Mochrie (Murder Call, Neighbours) and Hayes herself.
I caught up with Genna Chanelle Hayes to discuss her production company, Indigenous rights and spreading love via art…
When and why did you set-up One Love Films?
Founding One Love was just the next step for me. I am very passionate about acting, and I am very passionate about filmmaking, and I am also extremely passionate about human rights. Therefore combining these things together and utilising my talents and tools led to my creating of One Love Films. Also I guess, from a very young age, I knew I was always a storyteller. And through One Love, I get to tell stories in multiple ways. As an actress, as a writer, as a director- I am completely in love.
When did Indigenous rights become a passion of yours?
For me, it is just about allowing us all, no matter our background, no matter the colour of our skin, no matter our religion, no matter our gender- it’s just about giving us all an equal shot in life. All humans are equally unique, equally special and equally valuable, and all humans equally deserve LOVE.
Growing up, I was always proud of the country I grew up in. Australia- we are the luckiest country in the world in many ways! But when you learn about the horrific injustices that occurred throughout our history, and the pain and turmoil that our indigenous population has suffered through- it’s hard to remain proud. Sadly, people are still suffering, and I believe we need to do whatever we can to ensure all people living on this land, and the lands beyond, live equally in a just world.
Tell us a bit about the film, Wurinyan?
Wurinyan is a film that I wrote just after I came off Bug. It is just something that I had been sitting on for quite a while. Wurinyan is a story that brings indigenous Australia and white Australia together through love. It follows the journey of two young Australians from different worlds who, upon meeting, discover a deep connection. But like everything worth something, they have to learn to fight for what they want. They have to be strong. I don’t want to give any of the good stuff away- I’ll save the rest for the film.
Who do you play?
I play Isabelle. She is a girl who grew up ‘comfortably’. She exists in a world where she doesn’t feel like she belongs. I guess she feels very alone- until she meets a boy from Darwin…
What motivated you to tell this story in particular?
I wanted to find a way to bring all Australians together through the world’s most powerful tool- ‘love.’ I also wanted to enlighten and educate the world on current human rights issues existing in our country today like Indigenous suicide rates, death in custody and the existing need for equal access to education, resources and opportunity across Australia.
Did you know that Australia has the HIGHEST INDIGENOUS SUICIDE RATES IN THE WORLD (with the exception of Greenland)? Did you know that the Australian government is threatening TO CLOSE UP TO 150 INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA due to state and federal budget cuts? These issues need to be discussed, and action needs to be taken to protect these indigenous communities, and to curb and prevent these suicides.
The film is a short. What do you hope people will get out of that time frame?
The film runs at 34 minutes. It’s longer than what I initially planned- going into shooting. But I think each moment is justified. What I would love is for people to walk away from Wurinyan with a drive to create an equal and just nation. We have a beautiful country. I want us all to, despite our differences, treat each other with appreciation, respect, compassion, kindness and deep love. I hope that Australians can work towards creating a society free from prejudice, exclusion, injustice and inequality. Let’s all ‘love’.
The word “Wurinyan” means “to love”. Do you think there’s not enough love in modern-day politics?
I don’t think there is enough love in the world. There is no such thing as ‘too much’ love.
Many people will be excited to see Christine Anu and Mark Coles Smith in this film. What was it like to get such prominent and talented Aboriginal actors on board?
It was incredible. I feel very fortunate. Christine is an Australian icon, and just a gorgeous person with a beautiful spirit. Mark is a really special guy, and extremely talented in so many ways. He’s got a lot to offer the world, and I can’t wait to watch his journey as it continues to unfold.
Outside of this movie, what else have you been working on? As an actress, writer or director?
There are a couple of projects over in the States that I am hoping to be part of. As for One Love, I am working on a television show that I hope to have production wrapped on by the years end. Also, I am shooting my first feature in Melbourne over the coming months. It’s called Three, and I am just really excited to get back on set. I also have a feature Iniquity, that deals with mass human rights abuses within the global sex trade. I hope to shoot that in Cambodia in 2016.
Can we expect to see more from One Love Films anytime soon?
Absolutely and always!
When and where can we see Wurinyan?
Following the Equality Rally & Wurinyan Screening in Sydney (sponsored by Dr Spiller Biocosmetics and Balance Water), we are now previewing the film down here in Melbourne at The Backlot Studios, Southbank. Following that, Wurinyan will continue to travel the international festival circuit- continuing to spread ‘love’.
Official Wurinyan trailer below:
For more details, head to www.onelovefilms.org