Listen: Andrew Luri chats to Laura Bennett
Sudanese-Australian Andrew Luri had never acted before he got the gig to star alongside Aussie A-lister Hugo Weaving in Hearts and Bones – but the first-timer certainly proves his worth in the poignant Australian drama.
Directed by Ben Lawrence (son of Ray Lawrence of Lantana and Jindabyne fame), Hearts and Bones is a no-holds-barred account of the realities of war photography on both the shooter and the subject.
- Update, Monday 22 June: find a cinema screening of Hearts and Bones
Weaving, who has described the film as “one in my career that I’m most proud of”, plays Dan Fisher – a photojournalist who’s plagued by post traumatic stress disorder from his travels. As he prepares for his next exhibition, he meets a Sudanese refugee named Sebastian (Andrew Luri) who’d like him to cover another side of his country’s story. Despite Dan and Sebastian’s differences, the movie gradually reveals how they’re bonded by war, and the way their partners have had to deal with each of the men’s trauma.
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An Unexpected Career in Acting
Nominated for an AACTA Award for his role as Sebastian, Andrew came to the job through a friend who put his name forward to the casting agent.
Speaking with Hope 103.2 Andrew said, “Most of the things that they wanted [Sebastian] to do I could do. And [the director] Ben gave me his word; he said, ‘I trust you’, and trust means a lot to me. The producer also joked that I didn’t know what I’d put myself into.”
What Andrew had signed up for was a 2100-word role (“more than Hugo!”) and an opportunity to represent a group of people he feels great affinity with.
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Having moved to Melbourne from Sudan via Cairo and then Darwin, Andrew knows all too well the story of a man trying to find a safe place to live, and then create a new life carrying the identity of ‘a refugee’. It’s a label that Andrew says we need to recognise becomes quickly outdated.
“It’s something that brought me here,” said Andrew. “But I’m not a refugee anymore – I’m a citizen. Once you’re settled that’s how it works… But it’s good to represent other refugees all over the world, and let people know [their stories].
“It’s something that brought me here, but I’m not a refugee anymore – I’m a citizen. Once you’re settled, that’s how it works. But it’s good to represent other refugees all over the world.”
“I knew similar stories, and I went through some as well, and [playing Sebastian] I was reminded of some of the problems that were happening back [in Sudan].”
The way those issues and the plight of refugees is presented to the Western world is central to Hearts and Bones, as it ponders the moral dilemma of making ‘misery porn’ out of real people’s worst moments.
Asked whether he thought visual depictions of war and public exhibitions were appropriate, Andrew has a very forgiving perspective.
“[Those things are] very, very crucial,” Andrew said. “If you pay a bit of attention [to war zones and refugee camps], it will let you realise exactly how other people are suffering from things like bad governments and bad politics and such things…
“Africa is actually very blessed but it doesn’t have leaders who pay attention [to the people] – they only pay attention to their own interests. To make these things known to other people draws their attention to it, and that’s a good thing.”
The Stabilising Role of Faith, Music, and Church
Andrew’s character Sebastian also has a love of church and music, which Andrew says is much the same for him.
“My brother’s a Bishop, and the church is very important to our lives,” Andrew said. “We grew up as believers and played all kinds of music growing up in the church… Music and church is actually something very interesting – it makes people go straight in life.”
That made finding a church community a top priority for Andrew as he moved around Australia.
“People of faith make friends very quickly, because you don’t care where the other person is from… [you] focus on one thing: God.”
“Hope is the first thing you try to find,” said Andrew. “People of faith make friends very quickly, because you don’t care where the other person is from, or things like that – people of faith focus on one thing: God – and that’s it.
“When we came [to Australia] we searched for a church and found one, and the pastor was very, very surprised because he’d a dream a few days before about Africans coming to his church… And it encouraged his faith in God [and that] what he’s doing in the church is real, and God is real.”
Keeping His Feet on the Ground
Making Hearts and Bones has certainly afforded Andrew a lot of opportunities to share his story of going from being a refugee to a film star, but he approaches his newfound influence with a level head.
“Some of the youth around [Melbourne] say, ‘We want to follow in your footsteps’,” said Andrew. “I’ve been to places I’m not supposed to be; I’ve rubbed shoulders with V.I.P.’s… but I think I’m not an important person, yet this one role has changed my life.
“It’s not about being rich, or getting a lifestyle that I don’t have – it’s not like that. It’s about getting close to people and telling the truth [about life].”
- Hearts and Bones is available now for streaming or download on all major platforms
- Hugo Weaving will host a Virtual Q&A Sesssion about the film on Friday, May 15 from 8:30 to 9pm.