The low-budget film is financed by Screen Australia and Screen NSW. Visit Films in New York is the sales agent.

Writer/director Ivan Sen, who earned the award for best first feature at Berlin in 2002 with Beneath Clouds, is in production on his third film, Toomelah.

The focus of the story is a nine-year-old boy in an isolated Aboriginal community who gets caught up with a gang of drug-dealing teenagers, then has to decide what to do after they get taken away by the police.

The low-budget film is financed by Screen Australia and Screen NSW. Visit Films in New York is the sales agent.

The film takes its name from the Toomelah community which Sen extensively documented 20 years ago while studying photography. It is situated near the News South Wales/Queensland border and is his mother’s original home.

Toomelah is being entirely filmed in this community with untrained locals in all cast and crew roles; Sen says he likes the lack of control this introduces.

“It is drama with elements of comedy and darkness, just like real life, although what will seem dark to some is not dark to these people and everything is tinged with the light heartedness that is inherent to them,” he told Screen.

Sen has also made several documentaries since making Beneath Clouds — including Un Certain Regard film Yellow Fella from Cannes 2005 — but now believes drama can more accurately reveal truth.

Toomelah is one of a slate of low-budget high production value digital films that the multi-hyphenate Sen and producer David Jowsey are making under their Bunya Productions banner.

The first of these and Sen’s second feature, Dreamland, about a man who loses his self-importance through the power and magic of nature and of the cosmos, has two market screenings at Cannes.

Filmed in black and white in Area 51 in Nevada, a region known for military activity and UFO sightings, it is expected to interest the high-end art market and “sci-fi nuts”.

Bernard Bories, director of the annual Antipodes Film Festival in Saint Tropez, is planning a modest release of Dreamland in France.

Sen and Jowsey are next planning to make Loveland, part inspired by Blade Runner and set in Hong Kong.

The lead character is an assassin who falls in love with the girlfriend of his target and the aim is to recruit significant Chinese stars for the lead roles.