It’s a gutsy broadcaster that lifts the lid on gay hate crimes with two separate programs across several platforms.
SBS has done just that with its Deep Water event – which launched on television on Wednesday night with a startlingly good drama of the same name.
In the 1980s and 1990s, marauding gangs of young men and women hunted down young homosexual men in Sydney suburbs as sport, beat them up and, often, hurled them off cliffs to their deaths.
The attackers were confident in the knowledge that “the cops aren’t going to do anything because it’s about poofters”.
There were dozens of deaths and thousands of assaults, which often occurred on “The Beat” – outdoor areas like Bondi or Manly where gay men (and often those still in the closet) congregated for sex and companionship at night.
Most of the deaths were written off as suicides at a time when the community effectively tolerated homophobia even though homosexuality had been recently legalised.
The fictional version of Deep Water opens with the death in Bondi of a young man, horribly mutilated.
It’s the first case back in the city for Detective Tori Lustigman (played by Yael Stone of Orange Is the New Black fame), who’s back from rural New South Wales to work alongside a wonderful foil in Detective Nick Manning (Noah Taylor, brilliant as always).
Tori soon clocks that there are connections to many other murders over the past 25 years and, despite the best efforts of the older police bosses, she sets out to investigate them.
This is a layered and rich drama – brilliantly written by the talented Kris Wyld – which delves into layers of Australian life as it follows a sophisticated murder mystery.
The most recent murder is of a young Bosnian-Australian Amir Rexhaj (Julian Maroun), whose parents are unable to even consider the idea that their son is homosexual.
His lover is Rohan Asad, an Iraqi student played by comedian, writer and actor George H. Xanthis.
Other murders follow and it seems the gay dating app, THRUSTR, is the key.
Given the huge range of largely white drama around at the moment on all other networks, it’s refreshing to see Australia’s ethnic diversity represented and not in a token way. Other networks could do well to take a look at this great array of new acting talent.
There are more familiar faces as well. Craig McLachlan, playing sleazy bar boss Kyle “Hammers” Hampton, William McInnes playing the cynical Inspector Peel and Danielle Cormack as prickly police officer Brenda MacIntosh.
Also worth watching is the documentary Deep Water – The Real Story, to be shown on SBS on Sunday October 16. Revealing a shocking litany of crimes and mismanagement of the police investigations, it features chilling interviews with some of the young killers.
SBS has pioneered cross platform initiatives but this is the first time it has attempted one on this scale, with what’s termed an “interactive, immersive online and social media experience” and all produced by Australia’s Blackfella Films, in association with SBS.
Finally finished unpacking boxes. Not sure how I feel to be back…
— Tori Lustigman (@ToriLustigman) October 4, 2016
That means that while you watch the TV show, you can be privy to more of the evidence and crime scene material via Twitter @DeepWaterSBS and @ToriLustigman or follow the investigation using #DeepWater as the drama unfolds on screen.
This event cements SBS’s long-standing reputation for producing top-quality, innovative work. I just wish they had the money to make more like it.
Watch the teaser for Deep Water below:
— Deep Water SBS (@DeepWaterSBS) October 3, 2016
The drama Deep Water will air over two weeks, premiering Wednesday October 5 at 8.30pm on SBS and then airing on October 6, 12 and 13.
The documentary Deep Water – The Real Story airs on SBS Sunday October 16.