Family shot of a middle-aged man and woman embracing a young man

Deep Dive: Lion and Lioness

Deep Dive: Lion and Lioness – Q&A with Sue and Saroo Brierley

A Q&A with Sue and Saroo Brierley
 Travis Green

In November 2020 the NFSA was proud to host Sue and Saroo Brierley in conversation with Alex Sloan, to discuss their history and the story behind the award-winning film Lion (2016). They also discuss Sue's book Lioness (2020), which Saroo calls 'a prequel to Lion'. The conversation delves into the intimate history of Sue Brierley including her upbringing and growing up in Tasmania, and her journey to becoming an adoptive mother:

Alex Sloan in conversation with Sue and Saroo Brierley at the NFSA in 2020, discussing the story behind the film Lion (2016) and Sue's book Lioness (2020).

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Lion, directed by Garth Davis, is the 2016 Australian biographical film based on the story of Saroo Brierley, and his search to find his biological family in India. Starring Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman and David Wenham, the film was nominated for 6 Oscars at the 89th Academy Awards and is the fifth most successful Australian film of all time at the local box office (as at 2021, unadjusted for inflation).

Based on Saroo’s 2013 non-fiction book A Long Way Home, with screenplay by Australian novelist Luke Davies, the film depicts Saroo’s journey, beginning when he was five years old and living in a small village in rural India.

One evening, while accompanying his brother to a train station to steal coal in exchange for food, he falls asleep on an abandoned train. He wakes to find the train in motion, and is transported to Kolkata (Calcutta), where he knows no one and doesn’t speak the dialect.

Being a five-year-old child, he wanders the city unsure where to go or what to do. After living under a bridge, he is eventually placed in an orphanage, where he is adopted by Australian couple John and Sue Brierley.

Two decades later Saroo's friends encourage him to search for his birthplace, and he uses Google Earth to find his hometown. Eventually, and with the support of his adoptive parents, Saroo journeys back to his village in search of his biological mother.

Saroo’s story is one of loss and sadness, but also equally of hope and determination. The emotional and physical journey he goes through as a young man to find his biological family is heartbreaking to watch, especially knowing the story is autobiographical.

Lion is available to stream and rent or purchase online, as well as on DVD. Learn more about the film on the Transmission Films website.

Learn more about Sue Brierley's book Lioness at the Penguin Random House Australia website.