Resident Spotlight

Bassendream Film Director Tim Barretto 



Tim Barretto, a local film maker and owner of Lab West Film, grew up on Harcourt Street in Bassendean during the 1990s. As a third generation 'Bassen-Dreamer', his childhood memories of the suburban streets and natural landscapes in the area provided the perfect backdrop for his 90s period piece and feature film debut, Bassendream.

Perfectly encapsulating the mood and nostalgia of growing up in Perth in the 1990s, through beautiful cinematography and an all-Australian soundtrack, the film follows the lives of multiple characters, young and old, as they cross paths on one hot summer day in the mid-nineties.

For Tim Barretto, the making of Bassendream has been a long and winding road.

The Perth film maker started with a vision; to recreate the nostalgia of his childhood through the lens of a 16mm camera.

Tim conceptualised the film from shared memories of growing up in the leafy riverside suburb, which he and his friends affectionately refer to as ‘the Dream’.

“We talked about our childhood and what made it special” he said. “It was the unchained freedom that we were given…there was a safe enough bubble here that gave us that freedom”. He added, “You knew a person on every street so you could just run and knock on their door”.

As Tim recalls, children in the area would spend time together, regardless of what school they went to. “I went to St Michael’s but I had lots of friends that went to Bassendean Primary and Eden Hill. Your street friends were your street friends, and your school friends were your school friends, so there was that separation’.

It is in Bassendean, that Tim believes a lot of his creativity was birthed. ‘’People who grew up here tend to have an ambition that shines…lots of people have done really good things and been very successful in the practice that they choose”.

Set in the mid-nineties, a time before smartphones and social media, the film takes us back, to life before the internet. When kids would connect with friends and discover themselves through hours-long conversations, getting into mischief and playing in the bush all summer long. “The landscapes, the swamp, the river, was all a playground for us”, he said.

Tim describes the style of the film as a heightened reality - for the kids, juxtaposed against the nightmarish struggle of adults dealing with substance abuse, family breakdowns and depression, unbeknownst to the children, until these worlds undoubtedly collide.

Filmed over two summers in 2016 and 2017, the cast and crew are half comprised of Bassendean residents, making it a truly local feature.

The landscapes and architecture provide the perfect backdrop for this 90s period piece with excellent costume and set design, right down to the appearance of an old Telstra landline, hills hoist and some very daggy fashion choices. Bassendream takes the viewer back in time and forces one to contemplate a simpler era, when community, friendships and enjoying the outdoors were all there was.

We all escape reality these days, through our technology and fantasy world of social media, but what the film reminds us of is the undisputable rawness of life, when we simply focus on what’s in front of us, with no distractions. The film is relatable, realistic, and humanistic to the point of being uncomfortable.



When asked how the film will translate overseas, Tim says the themes are universal. “Bassendean was the tool for the suburb, but it could be any suburb”, he said. In fact, Tim completed the script overseas after the first summer of filming and editing. “I was living in Sydney at the time working on film sets and I was like, ‘I’ve got to get away’ so I went to Taiwan (laughs) and there was heavy rains at the time and I sat in a 7/11 for two weeks and wrote the rest of the movie’’ further adding that his creative process thrived with an outsiders perspective.

 Since the film wrapped, Barretto has allowed its audience to grow organically, instead of pushing it into the spotlight. He believes his slow-paced approach towards writing, filming, and releasing it has been the reason for its success.

It appears Bassendream has a life of its own, with a driving purpose so far not totally understood.

Already having sold out three 500 capacity sessions at Revelation film festival and two almost sold-out cinemas at Luna Leederville, Tim says most films start out internationally and eventually find success at home, whereas Bassendream has already captured the hearts of West Australians, probably due to its impressive portrayal of what Perth was like back in the 1990s.

But it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Bassendream. For a while it appeared the film may never get released, as Tim and his wife Melanie, who produced the film, struggled to source funding to complete it. 

 “We had no one above us. We ran a really nice set, we didn’t promise anything…we did three months extensive editing to make it as smooth possible. I cut it in different stages, I was just working on it in between jobs, and we had some traction with an executive producer over east but then COVID hit”.

After coming back to Perth, Ian Hale, Managing Director of HALO films and Director of Backlot Cinema, approached Tim and asked what was happening with the film.

But for Tim, without the right soundtrack, the film could never go ahead. “I didn’t really want to compromise”, he says, “If I can’t get the music, then I won’t release it. I was pretty stubborn” Tim needed completion funding to get the music licence, so with Ian’s help, they worked out a strategy to get a limited licence for a 

few years, so they could release the film and see what the response was like. It was definitely the right move. The all-Australian soundtrack is reminiscent of what many locals probably recall hearing from Steel Blue Oval when the Big Day Out used to come to town.

It’s a catch 22 in Australian independent cinema. The industry wants to see international success before a film can be funded, but with Bassendream, Tim needed funding to finish it.

“It’s hard to get people to the cinema. I think with Australian films we try to do an American formula and that’s fine, some people enjoy that, but people also want to go and see something refreshing. It might be a bit different, but at least they can say ‘I relate to that character, that’s like my uncle, that’s like my daughter, etc’ People always respond to honest characters”.

Tim says if people make movies like Bassendream on an independent level and don’t feel nurtured along the way, then local cinema can never flourish. He says it doesn’t have to be financial, but just offering some advice or offering an industry connection can make a huge difference in whether these kinds of films get made or not.

Tim says he looks forward to sharing local cinema with audiences abroad as he takes the next steps in locking in the international premiere. The film will be screened at the Darwin International film festival this month and at an Eastern States screening which will be announced soon.

So what is next for Bassendream?

“My grandmother is writing Bassendream part two, she lives just down the road”, he laughs. When asked if he would be open to taking the idea further, he concluded “I wouldn’t say no, I’m open to exploring a sequel or another format, but also have some other projects in the works.”

Tim’s current focus is pre-production for his next feature, a relationship drama set on the Bibbulmun track.

Bassendream will be screening at the Telethon Community Outdoor Cinema in Bassendean on Thursday December 1st to open its season. Get your tickets now at 😊




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