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Crew making manslaughter movie threatened

AAP logoAAP 11/10/2016 Danielle McGrane

The details of a decades-old killing are back in the spotlight with the release of a film about the macabre event.

Joe Cinque's Consolation traces what happened leading up to the death of Cinque, an engineer who was killed by his girlfriend, Canberra law student Anu Singh who injected him with a lethal dose of heroin in 1997.

The film is based on Helen Garner's book which details the psychological drama that unfolded during the criminal trial that ultimately led to Singh's manslaughter conviction.

Director Sotiris Dounoukos admits there's already been some very strong reactions to his depiction of the crime.

"A number of people working on this film including myself received threats but you just get on with your work," Dounoukos told AAP.

The threats, he says, are anonymous and as far as he knows they haven't come from anyone directly connected to the story but it's clear this movie has the potential to provoke.

"It shows you it's a highly charged set of facts," he said.

The film brings Garner's book to light, using evidence and testimony from the court case to create the narrative of the time leading up to Cinque's death.

The director has created a film about a very specific event, but he thinks the message is universal.

"There's a bigger discussion that has to happen collectively and that's one of the things the film is about, group dynamics and how we function as groups and what happens when we fragment and that connective tissue in society is so weak that, in this case, life could just pass through so many hands," he said.

The shifting group dynamic unfolds in the film as a host of student friends of Singh's are invited to dinner parties to "celebrate" her last night on the earth as she tells them that she and Cinque plan to take their own lives in a double suicide. By replaying these moments, the film appears to ask: could someone have done something more to prevent Cinque's death?

"These people almost through choice or wilful ignorance seem to retreat into the role of spectator when the world is asking people for a completely different call to action, to actually accept that they are part of this ... they can do something," he said.

"Aren't we all in that position in some way in life?"

Singh was released in October 2001 after four years imprisonment, but wasn't consulted about the film.

"She did not participate in the writing of the book after several attempts by Helen to approach her. She didn't give evidence in court and when we tried to get evidence via our freedom of information act application she did all she could to block that.

"But Joe's also not here to tell his own story so we put them on the same level. And there's an incredible amount of evidence that we accessed as well so we had a very good idea of what was happening at that moment for her and in the years after."

*Joe Cinque's Consolation opens in select Australian cinemas on Thursday

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