Shooting begins in Calcutta this week on he Waiting City, a $1.9m drama directed by Claire McCarthy and produced by Jamie Hilton.

Radha Mitchell (Melinda And Melinda), Joel Edgerton (Kinky Boots) and newcomer Isabel Lucas (Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen) are the Australian cast who begin filming on Tuesday.

H20 Motion Pictures has signed on to handle international sales for the film about a childless middle-class Australian couple after they hit a hiccup upon arriving in India to adopt a baby. Hopscotch will distribute in Australian and New Zealand.

The Waiting City has the same 'semi-verite' style and humanist themes as McCarthy's low-budget feature Cross Life, made with unemployed young people in Sydney's red light district.

Cross Life debuted at the Sydney Film Festival last year and was in the programme at Pusan, Berlin and London, and it led to McCarthy being nominated for an Independent Spirit Award at the 2007 Inside Film Awards.

The $1.9m (A$2.8m) film is a debut for Hilton, who told Screendaily from India that it had been financing through perseverance, solid preparation - he and McCarthy self-financed three trips to India in the lead up and shot a music video there - and a strong team.

That team includes cinematographer Denson Baker, McCarthy's partner and a key collaborator on a number of her projects, and three people nominated for Academy Awards: editor Veronica Jenet, sound specialist Paul Brinkwater, and Paul Pattison, who won an Academy Award for hair and make-up on Braveheart.

Finance for The Waiting City is coming from Screen Australia, facilities houses Spectrum Films and E-Film, the New South Wales Film and Television Office, and private investor Exodus. It will also take advantage of Australia's 40% producer rebate.

Sydney-based McCarthy has made documentaries, short films and music videos in Australia, India, Germany and Mexico. She has also worked in orphanages and in the slums of India.

'I am attracted to complex, poetic, psychological drama with universal, humanist themes - the cycles of birth and death, the rites of passage from childhood to adulthood, the tensions between traditional beliefs and the distractions of the modern world,' says McCarthy.

'I also have a bit of a fascination with spiritual, moral and transformative themes, dealt with in a way that is character-based and story driven I like films to be epic and intimate.'

She says she comes from an 'uber Catholic family' - she has a brother who is a priest - and says some of her favorite filmmakers have a strong connection to religion and a habit of questioning. She lists Bergman, Ozu, Renoir, Bertolucci, Schrader, Wenders, Fellini and Tarkovsky as examples.

The Waiting City will be in production until December 20.