THE Bentley Effect, a powerful documentary about the growth of the social movement that blocked the incursion of CSG exploration into the Northern Rivers, will have its world premiere at the Byron Bay Film Festival in October.
Made by Alstonville father Brendan Shoebridge, the film is primarily a celebration of the power of ordinary people to stand up to and defeat corporate forces intent on steamrolling community wishes.
It is also a testimony to their courage and creativity, and to what it cost in blood, sweat and tears, as well as an important and necessary historical record.
The film features expert talking heads – notably one skewering Metgasco apologists on their weasel evasion about fracking chemicals – but focuses more on the men and women committing themselves to protecting the land from the miners’ depredations.
It’s emotionally charged: joyful at times (the knitting nannas, resolute citizens singing Christmas carols) and gutting at others, as vulnerable people are dragged away and men weep at seeing country despoiled.
The protestors at Glenugie and Doubtful Creek were beaten by mob-handed police force which allowed the drill-rig juggernauts through and when all seemed lost.
So the stakes were high at Bentley, but there was no showdown: Metgasco’s licences were suspended.
It was the point when the seemingly unbeatable forces were turned around by a greater moral and social power.
“The beauty of the story is that a real threat was combatted by real people in our own backyard,” said Shoebridge. “They were true heroes.”
But the film comes with a warning: the Baird government has criminalised protest. Bentley was a victory but the war continues.
“I wanted to leave the audience inspired, uplifted, but things are so serious we must not become complacent,” Shoebridge said.
His film helps to maintain the rage.
The festival opens on October 14.
For further information, visit bbff.com.au