For months, the plan had been for Luri to travel around the country with Weaving and Lawrence, who he calls “real friends” after making the film together, for interviews, screenings and Q&A sessions.
But with cinemas closed due to the coronavirus crisis, those screenings are not happening any more as Hearts and Bones goes directly to a digital release on Wednesday.
Luri knew nothing about acting when a South Sudanese-Australian community representative put his name forward to audition for the film.
He plays a South Sudanese refugee who befriends a traumatised war photographer, played by Weaving, until the discovery of an old photograph threatens to derail both their lives.
The film was warmly received at its world premiere at the Sydney Film Festival last year, with Luri and little-known Bolude Watson, who plays his wife, considered a revelation for the strength of their performances.
Luri enjoyed being feted at the Melbourne International Film Festival then, internationally, in Canada and India. He, Weaving and Watson were all nominated for AACTA awards this year.
Waiting for the release, Luri went back to a job driving a rail replacement bus and, in recent weeks, going through lockdown with his 11-year-old daughter Rejoice in their Cranbourne North home.
“I’m always alone,” Luri says. “Human to human is very important. Isolation is really, really sad.”
He is disappointed members of the South Sudanese-Australian community will probably not watch Hearts and Bones now, which means they will miss a rare positive representation on screen.
“In a cinema, it’s a lot better,” Luri says. “You hear other people, the way they respond.”
Having twice fled war-torn South Sudan during wars — first for Kenya then later for Egypt with his wife and then four children — Luri migrated to Australia on a humanitarian visa in 2003.
“It was so, so dangerous,” he says of his homeland. “All of our lives were just war from one generation to the other. Somebody can just shoot and kill you for nothing.”
Trying to stay upbeat during lockdown, Luri has continued his interest in film.
With encouragement from Nico Lathouris, who coached him to be an actor for Hearts and Bones, Luri is writing a script, called Street Prophet, about the lives of young South Sudanese-Australians to counter the idea they are all members of criminal African gangs.
“People don’t understand the way we live here,” he says. “We don’t enjoy life, especially in Victoria. It’s too racist.
“When you come to find a job, they don’t give you a job. When you go to school, sometimes you find difficulties there. We are so much disadvantaged.”
Luri says young members of his community are regularly demonised.
“These boys, they seek help but nobody is willing to help them out,” he says. “People are going around with pain.”
Despite his disappointment about the release, Luri recognises that acting in Hearts and Bones has changed his life and wants to tell more stories for his community.
“I came to realise that I have something that I have to get out,” he says.
He is looking forward to acting in Street Prophet and has another idea for a film, set on a rail replacement bus.
Despite having Rejoice for company, this garbage truck driver who turned himself into an actor good enough to be nominated for an AACTA award alongside Joel Edgerton, Ben Mendelsohn and Damon Herriman would like to be less lonely.
“I no longer have a partner,” he says brightly. “I’m looking for one. Maybe you can help me.”
Garry Maddox is a Senior Writer for The Sydney Morning Herald.