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This True Crime Movie Explores One Of Australia’s Most Bizarre Murders

Anu Singh invited her friends to a dinner party, letting them know it would be the last time they would see her or her boyfriend again. Sotiris Dounoukos’s film explores one of Canberra’s most bizarre true crimes.

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In October 1997 in Canberra, Australia, Anu Singh held a farewell dinner with friends. Her intentions that night were to murder her boyfriend and kill herself after her guests had left.

Joe Cinque and Anu Singh / Via Supplied

After the dinner party Singh drugged her boyfriend, Joe Cinque, with Rohypnol before injecting him with a lethal dose of heroin. Initially, she told courts, this was so he would not interfere with her suicide attempt. However Singh had told friends she was suffering from a physical disease, and that's why she wanted to follow through with her plan of a murder-suicide. She had told many friends of her plans, and several attended the send-off dinner knowing this. Singh was found guilty of manslaughter, and was released on parole four years after imprisonment.

A new film by director Sotiris Dounoukos, Joe Cinque's Consolation, doesn't simply focus on the brutal act, but more the curious nature of the events leading up to Cinque's death.

"The screen adaptation is my attempt at exploring the central question: How could a life slip through so many hands?" Dounoukos states.

Jerome Meyer and Maggie Naouri as Joe and Anu / Via Supplied

His film is based on Helen Garner's book of the same name, however Garner constructed her novel on Singh's second trial in 1999. Dounoukos shifts the narrative, telling a linear story leading up to Cinque's death, not focusing on the repercussions or trial.

Where Garner's novel attempted to act as a consolation that the court could not give the Cinque family, the film seems more interested in weaving a portrait of Singh, Cinque, and those implicated in his death. "Our adaptation does not unfold as a literal courtroom drama but instead places the audience in the position of inquisitor," Dounoukos said.

"No one took action to stop Anu or help Joe, either because they unquestionably accepted Anu's worldview, dismissed the danger she presented, or saw no need to take responsibility to help," Dounoukos said.

Titan View

The director explains his aim in telling the story of Cinque as "examining how our chosen illusions about the world can isolate us from the truth and from each other, and even lead to tragedy".

Dounoukos attended the Australian National University at the same time as Singh and Cinque, and during his undergraduate studies attended law school with many who were involved in the death.

Titan View

Singh completed her master's in criminology while on day release, and in 2012 received a doctorate for her thesis on the causes that led female prisoners to commit crime.

Accountability becomes fluid in Dounoukos's telling of the events, as those sitting around the table believe half-truths, or purposefully avoid asking the right questions.

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"Unlike Anu's friends, we are not quite able to witness the unfolding disaster — we are not close enough to prevent it. We can only watch and reflect, and perhaps in so doing, provide a true and lasting memory of a decent young man."

Joe Cinque's Consolation opens in select cinemas across Australia on 13 October.

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