Feature film, 2015, Guido Gonzalez & S.Shakthidharan

Inspired by true events, Riz is the first feature film from CuriousWorks and represents a major step forward in our mission to share the largely untold stories of Australia’s multicultural communities with a wider audience.

Set in the dynamic multicultural mix of western Sydney, Riz is an iconic Australian coming-of-age story that was selected for the 2015 Sydney Film Festival.

The film is an entertaining portrayal of life for young people in Western Sydney, but one that also lays bare the rarely-crossed divide between it and the city’s more affluent suburbs. This is an economically-poor and culturally-diverse Sydney, not the narrow travelogue vision of beautiful beaches and blond surfers that so many films have presented to the world.

Riz also raises serious questions of both the strength and fragility of friendship and the difficulty of forgiveness. It challenges us to think about how we create leaders, our responsibility to community, and everyday barriers to opportunity and change.

Riz is part of our Colony body of work – a universe of interconnected stories that span pre-colonial times to the 22nd century.

Film Synopsis & Credits


On the eve of his 18th birthday, Riz faces betraying his closest friends as he struggles to maintain a ‘secret’ relationship with Kylie and a future at odds with his cultural and social background.

Riz is a leader among a group of teenage boys from Western Sydney. The bond between these mates from different refugee and working class backgrounds is stronger than family. As a birthday present, they film stories of how Riz has supported them through a maze of social problems they’ve encountered during their tough high school years. He’s kept them off the streets and away from crime. Before they can show him the video, he betrays them all.

Riz is different. He was always the most helpful, the most compassionate, the one everyone looked up to and respected. He excels at school, becomes the first in his immigrant Indian family to be offered a university place and seems destined for great things. But he is leading a secret second life. His middle-class girlfriend, Kylie, has never met his family or friends. They don’t know she exists. He has lied to her about where he lives. She doesn’t know he has doubts about going to university, and is making plans for their gap-year.

He creates two worlds and the conflicting expectations of each gradually overwhelm him. Riz begins to question his place in the community he once loved. Are his close friends, who were once the most important part of his life, now an anchor that keep him trapped where he no longer belongs? He faces a choice between financing the image he has presented to Kylie, or action that could leave his friends homeless.

Production Credits


Varun Fernando as Riz, Firdaws Adelpour as Jose, Henry Vo as Viet, Jamie Meyer-Williams as Brendon, Patrick Uy as Sam, Sophie Hawkshaw as Kylie, Anandavalli as Helen, Cristobal Olguin as Alejandro,


Co-Written and Directed by Guido Gonzalez and S. Shakthidharan, Produced by S. Shakthidharan, Guido Gonzalez and Aimée Falzon, Director of Photography: Vincent Tay, Production Designer: Aimée Falzon, Sound Recording, Engineering and Mixing: Matt Lord, Editor: S. Shakthidharan, Casting Director: Aimée Falzon Original Music by Kurinji (Aimée Falzon and S. Shakthidharan)

Riz developed out of Rizzy’s 18th Birthday, a joint cinematic and concert experience at Carriageworks in Sydney in 2014. Multiple video projections surrounded the audience to broadcast an alternative version of the work, as two musicians (Aimée Falzon and S. Shakthidharan) performed the soundtrack live each night.

The development of the project has been proudly supported by Carriageworks and Australia Council for the Arts.

“Its value is in telling what feels like an authentic multicultural story from the western suburbs about class, friendship and opportunity … Riz taps into a community that is not often seen in Australian films and and gives new talent a chance.” – Garry Maddox, Sydney Morning Herald

More Critics' Comments

“I really see a great deal of talent. It was wonderful to see this multicultural aspect of Sydney depicted on the screen. It’s not really what I’ve seen before. And I really wanted to support these filmmakers, because I think they’ve made a fascinating first work and I think they’re going to go on to make many more films.” – Nashen Moodley, director of the Sydney Film Festival

A wonderful tale dealing with the pleasure and pains of growing up – but in a fresh 21st century, post multi-cultural world via a young cast wearing their hearts on their sleeves – Mitch Byatt, 2SER

Inexperienced actors deliver intense performances which lead to a very poignant climax, *** ½ – Mark Morellini, City Hub

“Beyond telling a compelling story, Riz is clearly also a vehicle to challenge clichéd representations of the western suburbs that often proliferate media headlines.” – Nour Haydar, Sajjeling

“ … a heartfelt film about friendship, dreams and aspirations in the western suburbs of Sydney” – Jacqui Manning, ABC 702

“The strength of Riz is its ability to represent Australia as it is now. Australian cinema and television are often criticised for maintaining a White Australia policy decades after it was formally abolished as our national response to immigration.” – Nour Haydar, Sajjeling

Behind the Scenes A CuriousWorks Grassroots Success Story

The film is based on real events in the life of co-director Guido Gonzalez, who grew up in Cabramatta after moving to Australia as a refugee from Chile in 1985. Riz is his narrative feature film director debut, as it was for co-director S. Shakthidharan (founder and artistic director of CuriousWorks). Hear why they think Riz makes an important contribution to modern Australian cinema.

Riz Soundtrack Album

Riz: Music from the Motion Picture explores the nature of friendship, betrayal and forgiveness through a series of songs built upon the music in the film’s soundtrack. Right Right celebrates the strength of community; Maybe the Medicine proclaims to need to fight back; and How they Break Apartmourns the loss of friendship stronger than family. The album features the gorgeous vocal harmonies of Aimée Falzon, soaring over a bed of infused indie pop, electronica and rock. Listen to and download the entire album now for just $7.

On the Set with our Curious Creators

How did an enthusiastic, but inexperienced, gang of aspiring film-makers end up with a debut feature at the 2015 Sydney Film Festival?

Riz not only used debut actors, some recruited from Sydney high schools, it also had a young crew from Sydney western suburbs youth who developed their skills in CuriousWorks’ grassroots training programs.

Go behind the scenes with our trainee ‘Curious Creators’ in this four-minute video to learn about the amazing achievement our first feature film and the young talent that made it possible.

Riz Schools Package

Our Schools Package offers a rich incursion experience for teachers and students to explore NSW curriculum content in English, Drama and Society & Culture. It can also be adapted for use in universities. This package includes a screening of Riz with the opportunity to Q&A with the filmmakers and undertake a tailored workshops for your students.

Contact us to discuss further, or read more here.