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Byron Shire
November 30, 2021

Better to light one candle than to curse the darkness

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Entries open for Byron All Shorts

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Filmmaker David Bradbury explains his latest project

David films Carlos and his dance partner in Havana, Cuba. Photo Treena Lenthall
David films Carlos and his dance partner in Havana, Cuba. Photo Treena Lenthall

Last week in The Echo, I wrote about my visit to Standing Rock.

The footage I shot there will form part of a bigger new film, called The Darkest Hour… is just before the Dawn, which was shot over my three months in America leading up to the presidential elections.

The Darkest Hour will try to make sense of how the Trump phenomenon won the day, but will also give rise to hope and life after Donald.

We all need to live with that hope and have a roadmap pointing the way forward.

Survival revival

Criss-crossing the US, I visited eight major cities and filmed in various rural areas.

I met many traumatised people, including veterans of the Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan military misadventures fought on behalf of oil and corporate America.

They were veterans living on the streets who came home unhinged.

They fought for the America dream. Or as Donald puts it, trying to ‘Make America Great… again’.

I spoke to and filmed countless homeless people who had given up on the dream (or it had given up on them) and now struggle daily just to stay alive. For various reasons, they had given up trying to survive in suburbia.

I filmed musicians, philosophers, writers and prostitutes, drug dealers, oil merchants, beer salesmen, conmen and convicts. I was lucky to interview film director and my old friend, Phil Noyce, who is living in LA. (He directed Patriot Games, The Quiet American, Rabbit Proof Fence and Newsfront.)

We then went to Standing Rock to see it all rush together on election day.

By the end of our trip, my shoulder and back joints ached from carrying my camera gear on and off planes, buses, trains, Ubers, dodging check-in staff because I could not afford to pay excess baggage.

I gave it everything I had to make this film, as I always do. I hope to finish the film in the coming months while it’s still fresh in my head, so I can have screenings here and back in the US.

To do so, I need your help.

Decline in public broadcasting

The ABC and SBS are no longer interested in funding these so-called ‘radical’ films.

Our public broadcasters have been white-anted and taken over by Howard/Abbott appointees. The ABC and SBS are now run by economic rationalists and executives (failed hacks) who have migrated from commercial TV in Britain, NZ and Oz commercial TV. ABC management is awash with business admin and marketing degree types, all at the expense of actual program makers.

Legal and hard-headed accounting types negotiate with outsiders such as myself now.

They have little regard for the traditions and culture of ‘Our ABC’ that trained me and countless other good journalists and program makers.

This is the dumbing-down effect.

Today, it’s all about ratings and appealing to the lowest common denominator so the managers can justify to Canberra their highly paid jobs and perks based on viewing numbers, rather than fulfilling the ABC’s charter to show what mainstream media will never dare show.

Films I’ve had rejected by ABC and SBS are gathering dust in my edit room in Wilsons Creek, eating away at my conscience because I am not able to give a voice to the voiceless. These are people who have trusted me with their stories in Aboriginal Australia, India and Iraq.

And there’s my own son’s struggle with mental illness and drug addiction that we filmed, hoping to help others in the same boat.

Then there’s footage shot at Roxby, BHPBilliton’s uranium mine and the Lizard’s Revenge protest. It aims to inform and highlight the folly of building a nuclear waste dump in SA.

Opening up more uranium mines to export to countries like India is just insane – they refuse to sign the nuclear-non proliferation treaty.

Pre-ISIS footage

I shot a whole film in Iraq in 2013 just before ISIS took over. This is rare footage captured before these cities fell into chaos and bloodshed.

ABC (Four Corners and Foreign Correspondent) rejected it.

My footage clearly showed why the US-installed government in Baghdad was hated and would fall. It showed why ISIS was coming.

The footage also shows the continuing horrible birth defects on newborn babies in Fallujah and Basra where depleted uranium was used.

Family operation

Filmmaking is costly – airfares, accommodation, food, hire cars, camera equipment hire, professional technicians in post production.

I keep my overheads down by being a one-man cameraman, shooting my own video and sound.

My partner Treena Lenthall comes with me with our seven-year-old son Omar, and we work together as a family team.

We bring the many hours of footage back to the edit room in Wilsons Creek where I then spend three to four months sifting through it all with an editor.

That is both enjoyable and angst ridden, getting it down to around an hour in length, finding the final structure of a very complex jigsaw puzzle of visuals, interviews, music, entertaining moments and even light humour relief.

After more months’ work the process is then finished by highly skilled technicians: sound mixers, film graders and graphic artists.

These professionals, like the rest of us, have mortgages and kids, the need to put food on the table each week.

Frontline Film Foundation

Award-winning independent filmmaker David Bradbury has established a tax-deductible charity, Frontline Film Foundation.

David says, ‘Our patrons include Phillip Adams (whose ABC radio LNL show is on the chopping block), Judy Davis, Geoffrey Rush, Sam Neill, Bryan Brown, Tom Keneally, Father Frank Brennan, Peter Garrett, Paul Kelly and more.’

The credo of the Frontline Film Foundation, David says, is: ‘Better to light one candle than to curse the darkness’.

‘I need your help now to keep going’, says David.

‘Four hundred people donating $10 a week (the cost of two cups of coffee) is enough to provide me with a budget to make one important film a year. Please consider signing up online now… and help to light one more candle.’

• For more visit frontlinefilms.com.au/foundation.


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