Baykali Ganambarr On Jennifer Kent’s Traumatic Film The Nightingale

Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale is easily one of the most harrowing and important films of the year.

It also features grandstanding performances from Aisling Franciosi as Clare Carroll and Baykali Ganambarr as “Billy” Mangana.

This is actually Baykali’s debut performance on the big screen, and he really comes alive as the Aboriginal tracker Billy.

I was lucky enough to get the chance to talk to him about his experience working on the movie.

Baykali was kind enough to share with us what it was like working on The Nightingale and you can see what he had to say below.

Baykali Ganambarr as Billy and Aisling Franciosi as Clare in The Nightingale (Credit: IFC Films)

Baykali Ganambarr as Billy and Aisling Franciosi as Clare in The Nightingale (Credit: IFC Films)

What drew you to the role of Billy?

Well, the role of Billy was a big role and the movie shares/shows a story that is finally being seen on the big screen. It was too good of an opportunity to miss – I had to get this role.

How much of yourself do you see in Billy?

I see so much of myself in Billy. He is a strong, proud young warrior who has been through so much in his life. He faced racism and watched his family killed. He’s funny, smart and so energetic and is a never-give-up type.

This is the first time Palawa Kani has been spoken on screen. What was it like having to learn a new language and how did you manage to make sure it was as authentic as possible?

It was not that hard to learn palawa kani language because there are similarities to my language, it was just harder to remember the lines.

Can you talk a little about Jim Everett’s importance in this picture?

Jim Everett is a well-respected Elder in Tasmania and his importance was to consult with the rest of the palawa kani mob and let them know and get permission to film in certain areas in Tasmania and speak the language. Jennifer went to him for help and he pretty much helped drive this whole film. Without his knowledge and consultations with the Elders we wouldn’t have filmed this movie.

Jennifer Kent has talked about how determined she was that the violence in the film be an honest and authentic depiction of what really happened. What was it like having to be in such violent scenes in The Nightingale, and how did you prepare for them?

She was really determined and very respectful of sharing the Aboriginal culture and what happened in Australia. She wanted the film to be real, because it was real. Everything shown in the film is only 50% shown, there is more to what really happened and how Aboriginal people were treated, killed, chained and beaten. The historical depiction in The Nightingale is only just scratching the surface. It was hard to be in the film portraying my people knowing what happened to them. I was really into it and committed to the role and the story.

What was it like working with Jennifer Kent, and how was the shoot?

Working with Jennifer was amazing, she’s such an amazing human being. Very respectful and she was easy on me knowing it was my first big film. I would love to work on another film with her, she definitely wrote the script and made the film very authentic and truthfully and didn’t sugarcoat the story. Shooting the film was alright, it was challenging at times because of the weather conditions and also the places we had to travel to shoot scenes.

Did Jennifer ask you to do any research into what happened in Australia beforehand?

I didn’t have to do any research on my people because I already knew it. Growing up as a kid listening to our elders talk about the history and of the first contact.

It’s been reported that you had to do ten weeks of rehearsals before shooting, which sounds like a lot. What was that like and what do you think it brought to the final film?

I think it was Aisling and Sam that had to come and rehearse for that long. I only did 2 weeks of rehearsals, especially with Aisling. Getting to know each other and get that chemistry going between us for the film and also Jen working with me on some of my acting skills and techniques.

Did you watch The Babadook before hearing about The Nightingale? Can you see any elements of Kent’s previous film in this one?

I haven’t watched The Babadook yet to be honest. But I reckon there would be same but different elements than Babadook in The Nightingale.

The Nightingale is in cinemas across the UK right now.

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