Deaf girl Catherine wins top Aust film award

Catherine during the filming of the short film Dry Fire.

CATHERINE Thecla Saun, who was born deaf 18 years ago in Port Moresby, won the award for Best Young Actor at the 2021 St Kilda Film Festival in Australia last Saturday. Her dad Anthony Buskens is from Namatanai, Buka and the Netherlands. Her mum Joyce Saun is from East Sepik and Manus. Mum Joyce told of how Catherine was born deaf but due to lack of proper medical equipment in PNG, was now diagnosed until she was 22 months old. “I fundraised for two years to get her cochlear implant in Brisbane and by the Grace of God, got a job in Cairns in 2011 with a company which had sponsored our working visas, and then permanent residency here in Australia. We moved to Melbourne in 2016 to access more deaf services.” Catherine featured as a deaf girl in a short film called “Dry Fire” which was selected as one of the top 100 short films in the St Kilda Film Festival. Her stage name is Catherine Lillian.

“ On Saturday night (May 29), she won the award for Best Young Actor – a huge achievement for herself, the movie makers and crew, her family and PNG.”

The film’s writer-director Adam Bigums wrote about the story involving a deaf girl. “None of us had ever even met a deaf person before but it was important to us to do it correctly and for the film to be authentic.“We auditioned a number of young deaf actors, but as soon as Catherine Lillian walked into the room, we knew we had found the right person.“The character Catherine was auditioning for was: confident, independent, resilient. All these qualities were so clearly evident in Catherine herself and she suited the character perfectly. With key cast and crew assembled we were ready to hit the ground running.” Production began in January. It ended up being a 22-minute film. “It was intense, but the entire cast and crew went that extra mile and we got it all done. We managed to get a cut of the film into St Kilda Film Festival as a work in progress just in time and luckily, they saw something in our little film and decided to screen it.” Dry Fire was featured at the St Kilda Film Festival 2021 in three show-casings: a Made in Victoria event at the Astor Cinema, online as part of the festival’s digital roll-out, and at a special event followed by a panel discussion around making authentic stories. “From there we hope that it will screen at a number of other film festivals around the world while we also develop Dry Fire into a feature film script. For anyone interested in assisting with creating and making this full-length film a reality, please check out this website We would also appreciate you sharing this website with your network and anyone else who has been excited by our film and to keep that excitement for the dream of making this new full length feature film a reality.” Mum Joyce is over the moon about Catherine’s achievement. “Catherine has always wanted to be an actor and one thing led to another, she landed the role as one of the main characters in Dry Fire. “On Saturday night (May 29), she won the award for Best Young Actor – a huge achievement for herself, the movie makers and crew, her family and PNG.” Good job, Catherine. You certainly have made PNG proud.

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