Controversial Canberra murder case Joe Cinque becomes a film based on Helen Garner’s book

Garry Maddox

12/06/2015

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It was a controversial murder case dramatised by writer Helen Garner in Joe Cinque’s Consolation.

The prizewinning book detailed how Joe Cinque, a 26-year-old engineer, died at the hands of his 25-year-old girlfriend, Australian National University law student Anu Singh in 1997.
After a party to farewell friends who thought she was planning to take her own life, Singh put the sedative Rohypnol in his coffee then injected him with heroin, leaving him to die the following day.

Singh was eventually found not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter and served four years in jail.
Now a filmmaker who was in the same year at law school as Singh has quietly shot a feature film about the case in Canberra.

Sotiris Dounoukos describes Joe Cinque’s Consolation, an adaptation of Garner’s book that also draws on his own knowledge of the characters, as a psychological drama.

It deals with a tragic case that is “shocking and unexpected and strikes at the heart of things we all value and fear”.

Little-known Jerome Meyer plays Cinque, with Maggie Naouri (Wentworth) as Singh and Gia Carides as Maria Cinque, Joe’s mother.
Dounoukos expects the $2 million film, which finishes shooting on Saturday, to be controversial when it is released.

“You know it’s going to happen,” he says. “People have conflicting views about events.

“There’s always disagreement and it’s in the very nature of the book – the conflicting points of view around what happened and why.

“The film, just like the book, embraces that.”

Dounoukos, who practised as a lawyer before becoming a filmmaker, co-wrote the screenplay with Matt Rubinstein, another former lawyer.

“LIke a lot of people that read the book, I was moved by the way Helen approached the material,” he says “There was a real sense of inquiry about not just what happened but in asking why it happened and how it happened it was really a discourse about the nature of community.
“And the community it was touching on was one I grew up around – attending the Australian National University as well. So there was a direct connection to it.”

Dounoukos knew Singh at law school and saw Cinque around but never met him.

“It’s an an adaptation so the primary source is Helen Garner’s book but at the same time it’s impossible not to draw on your personal knowledge or recollections,” he says.

The film was shot as discreetly as possible using many of the real-life locations from the case, including the university and Canberra city centre.

Once shooting is finishing, Dounoukos will head to Sydney Film Festival where his short film A Single Body, about two abattoir workers whose friendship is tested, is a finalist in the Dendy Awards.