Based on real events, Stateless centers on the tragic story of Cornelia Rau, a young German/Australian woman who escaped a frightening cult only to be trapped in a bizarre labyrinth of Oz psychiatric and legal systems. Developed and directed by Cate Blanchett, it marks the Oscar-winner’s first foray into high-end dramatic television. The news came today from Screen Australia, the state-backed org that is providing funding to the project.
Stateless hails from Matchbox Productions and Dirty Films. Producers are Tony Ayres (The Slap) and Liz Watts (Animal Kingdom). Elise McCredie, who wrote Ayres’ Nowhere Boys and appeared in 2013 omnibus The Turning, in which Blanchett also featured, is scripting.
The story is inspired by Rau, a one-time Qantas air hostess who joined Sydney cult Kenja Communication in 1998 and was later held at the Baxter detention center in South Australia as a suspected illegal immigrant. The series is timely given Australia’s current debate over immigration, and is billed as being about “identity, belonging and the extraordinary lengths people will go to find their place in the world.”
The timing of the Oz-produced series is unclear, nor is it known if Blanchett will appear in front of the camera. Before she was an international star, the actress had roles in Oz minis Bordertown and Heartland; she recently had a cameo on drama Rake. Blanchett has a directing history with the Sydney Theatre Company where she was co-artistic director for five years with her husband Andrew Upton. She helmed playwright David Harrower’s Blackbird and Joan Didion’s memoir The Year Of Magical Thinking. In 2013, she pegged her feature helming debut to The Dinner, an adaptation of the Herman Koch novel which Oren Moverman is adapting and is understood to still be in development. Next, Blanchett appears in The Present opposite Richard Roxburgh, also at the Sydney Theatre Company. Her recent feature turns include Cannes hit Carol and as a very evil stepmother in Disney’s Cinderella.