A scene from The Man from Coxs River
A documentary following the efforts of a man to save a mob of wild brumbies from a remote National Park has captured the hearts of Australian regional audiences.
The Man from Coxs River charts the mission of two men – Chris Banffy and Luke Carlon – to safely relocate mass of wild horses from a water catchment area in the Burragong Valley due to fears the animals (which are classed as feral pests) will contaminate Sydney’s water supply.
Previously control operations such as these were carried out using shooters in helicopters and were highly controversial. This time, National Parks Ranger Banffy has tasked Carlon to find the horses, get them in the trap, and then break them in enough to lead them five kilometres to another set of yards with truck access.
Self-funded and self-distributed with no publicity budget, the quintessentially Australian story has proven a hit with regional audiences and has just secured national release opening in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney.
“We started out at [Blue Mountains cinema] Mount Vic Flicks, because the story was set in the Blue Mountains and we thought it might attract an audience there,” says director Russell Kilbey. “It sold out nine weeks in a row. So then we decided we should try to take it to the rest of Australia, because maybe it wasn’t just a Blue Mountains film.”
This led to more sold-out screenings at other regional destinations such as Avoca and Narooma, where the film outsold American blockbusters 2:1. Kilbey says the documentary has now been screened over 140 times and shows no sign of slowing down.
Kilbey attributes the films regional success partly to the Australian story itself but also to what he describes as a gap in the market servicing retirement-age audiences in regional areas.
“Most cinema audience in regional audiences are over 50, at retirement age. I think they are desperately hungry to see good Australian films that aren’t one of those giant CGI American studio super hero movies,” he says. “There are still cinemas out there run by communities and families willing to take a punt on a film that services the over 50’s audience. It seems strange that we’re not producing more those sorts of films and as such there is a hole in the marketplace.
“American films offer nothing to the audience that grew up on classic Hollywood. I mean do we really need to see another CGI superhero guy thrown through the Empire State building?”
The distribution method has been old-fashioned and hard-going, with Kilbey simply picking up the phone and ringing family owned independent cinemas.
“It’s a bit like wooing a woman,” he jokes. “First you have to get their phone number, then you have to see what sort of flowers they like, and eventually, hopefully they’ll say ‘let’s go on a date.’”
“It’s gotten to the stage we now have people ringing us up, saying ‘we want to put your film on.’”
The Man from Coxs River is still screening at selected independent cinemas.
To find out more, visit the website.