Australian films under the stars

BY BRENDAN SMITH

NFSA’s Brendan Smith, smitten by the night sky, writes from the Big Screen Festival at Mildura.

Nothing could be quite so perfect as watching an engaging Aussie film under the stars with a receptive local audience on the banks of the mighty Murray. The stars glittering overhead after a gorgeous sunset, and giant outdoor screen backed up against the heritage woolshed on the Homestead Lawns just outside Mildura.

Tonight we are enjoying Scott Hicks' moving family drama The Boys are Back (2009), starring Clive Owen and shot in the Flinders Ranges of South Australia.

Based on a true story, the film explores the life of a father and his two sons learning to live and laugh again after the death of their wife/mother. There’s warmth, humour and pathos, and gorgeous cinematography, and this Mildura crowd are loving it. Around 190 film lovers came out on a glorious night to share the experience together, bringing folding chairs, blankets, picnics and wine.

Occasionally I caught myself looking up from the film and gazing at the patchwork of stars you just don’t get in the heart of the city … offset by the sounds of distant evening bird song, and the gentle clack-clack-clack of the projector. Many people commented as they came in how nostalgic the outdoor screening experience was, reminding them of the old local drive in or deck chair cinemas of their youth.

We’re all looking forward to the next few nights when we travel from the harsh experiences of school teacher John Grant in 'The Yabba' in Wake in Fright (1971) to the lighthearted romp of Indigenous musical Bran Nue Dae (2010) on Friday.