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16 December 2020
By SARAH MATTHEWS
Internationally renowned actor Eric Bana would return to film in the Wimmera ‘in a heartbeat’ – provided he found the right project.
Bana, who plays the lead role of Aaron Falk in upcoming Australian film release The Dry, and the movie’s director Robert Connolly were full of praise for the Wimmera-Mallee’s landscape and people at the world premiere on Thursday night.
While world premieres are usually reserved for capital cities, the pair – who also helped produce the film – was determined to screen the movie in the Wimmera’s capital as a thank you to the many regional people involved.
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Horsham Centre Cinema hosted three closed screenings of the movie on Thursday, including a gala ‘red carpet’ event in the evening.
Bana and Connolly addressed the audience at each screening, introducing the movie and thanking the community for welcoming them with open arms.
Bana said he and Connolly were thrilled to film in the Wimmera-Mallee.
“There could have been a version filmed closer to Melbourne, to save a bit of money and logistics, but selfishly, from a visual perspective, we knew we had to be out here,” he said.
“I think the film really benefits from it. The visuals are stunning and it’s a part of Australia we haven’t seen a lot of.
“We see a lot of outback, we don’t see a lot of wheatbelt and flat, dry land, so I hope the film provides a good visual reference for the future.
“Also, there’s something that happens to a crew when you’re on remote location and you’re all in together, and it feels like a real team and a real family.”
Connolly said he was delighted to return to the region after filming at various locations including Beulah, Minyip, Hopetoun and Jeparit in March, 2019.
He said he was also excited to showcase the film in the ‘beautiful’ Horsham cinema.
“We always promised that we’d bring the film back for the world premiere,” he said.
“Eric and I had the most extraordinary experiences of our career out here, so to bring the film back here today has been wonderful.
“The first impression we had out here was how welcoming everybody was. It was pretty amazing.
“That welcoming nature of people here, I would say, was critical in us making the film in the region. Without that, I don’t know how we could have done it.
“We actually used a lot of locals as actors and there’s a few of them here tonight.”
Bana echoed Connolly’s statements.
“When someone comes up with the idea we might be able to screen it in Horsham first, before anywhere else, you think, ‘Well that’s not going to happen. Something is going to get in the way and they’re going to make us have it in the city first’,” he said.
“But we’re beside ourselves that the area we filmed in – these are the first people to see it anywhere in the world, outside of us as film-makers. It doesn’t always happen, so we’re rapt.”
The movie is based on Jane Harper’s award-winning crime novel, based in fictional drought-stricken community Kiewarra.
Bana said feedback about the film on Thursday had been ‘really fantastic’.
“I think for people who are fans of Jane’s book, they’re really happy and excited that the adaptation is so close,” he said.
“We were huge fans of the book and it was a case of wanting to really bring that to life and make it as big as possible and not use it as a starting point to go and make something else.
“So hopefully the locals are as thrilled with it as we are. I really hope people take it under their wing and feel proud of the film and the way things look in the film and recognise a lot of the locations.
“A lot of the towns were cherry-picked to create our own Kiewarra, so there’s a lot for people to recognise.”
Bana said he would ‘love to’ return for future projects, perhaps in other parts of the diverse Wimmera-Mallee-
“It is hard finding great material though,” he said.
“Rob and I first worked together on Romulus, My Father, which I couldn’t believe was 12 or 13 years ago. It’s taken us that long to find the next thing to make together.
“I’d be here again in a heartbeat, but stories set in this area aren’t that easy to find.”
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