Breaker Morant Double to start Film Club season

February 19, 2015

North West Theatre Company Film Club begins their 2015 season with a bang – or many bangs, if you consider the severity and horrific circumstances of the Boer War.

This period in British Empire (now Commonwealth) history threw up many larger-than-life characters, not least the controversial figure of Harry (“Breaker”) Morant, who, along with companion in arms Peter Hancock, was executed by the British command for alleged war crimes.

This story has been the subject of books, a play, and one of the finest Australian films ever made – the 1980 Bruce Beresford epic “Breaker Morant”, winner of no less than 10 AFI Awards, including Best Picture, and nominated for an Academy Award for Best Screenplay.

You can see this movie, along with a recently made documentary called ”Breaker Morant – the Retrial” at the opening of NWTC Film Club’s 2015 season on Sunday at the Roxy, beginning at 4pm.

Breaker Morant himself was an enigma – even his parentage was inconclusive, though there is a high probability that he was nobly bred in England and journeyed to Australia as something of a “black sheep”.

He spent much of his young life around Charters Towers in Queensland, where he honed his considerable skills in horse riding and horse breaking, shooting, fighting and womanizing. He was, from all accounts, a charming and popular personality who also became renowned as a bush poet.

“Breaker Morant – the Retrial” was filmed in 2013 by a group seeking exoneration for Morant.

Military lawyer Jim Unkles has, for years, argued unsuccessfully for a full pardon for Morant.
The documentary includes a number of re-enactments filmed at Charters Towers and on location in South Africa and Britain, and concludes with a mock trial conducted at the High Court in Melbourne which considers all the original evidence in a different light.

The documentary, which runs for 99 minutes, was directed by Gregory Miller, co-directed by Nick Bleszynski (who wrote the original play), is narrated by Neil Pigot and stars Benedict Wall in the role of Breaker Morant.

The film was launched at a special screening at Parliament House in Canberra, played to packed houses during its inaugural season at the NOVA Cinema in Melbourne and wowed a crowd of 250 people in period costume at a special screening at Charters Towers.

An interesting New England area sidelight is the fact that, at his so-called trial in South Africa, Morant was magnificently defended by a lawyer, played in the film by Jack Thompson, who had a practice in Tenterfield.

Major James Francis Thomas had moved from Sydney and first set up a practice at Emmaville, then something of a booming mining town, before moving to Tenterfield.
When he returned from the Boer War he purchased the Tenterfield Star newspaper, was instrumental in Sir Henry Parke’s famous federation oration at Tenterfield, built a house at Mt. Mckenzie, and is buried in the Tenterfield cemetery.

Sunday’s program will commence at 4pm with the original film”Breaker Morant” (102 minutes and rated M), there will be a five minute break and then”Breaker Morant-the Retrial” will screen (99 minutes and rated M). It will be a lengthy afternoon, but a fascinating one, and should finish around 7.30 pm.

Film Club Membership
Membership is rolling in, but it would be a big help if people intending to join did so before the day.

Membership fees can quite easily be collected at the Roxy on Sunday, but you can join before this at the Visitor Information Centre or by contacting a NWTC Executive member such as Susan Hutton, Ros Moulton or John Wearne.

For people not wanting to join for the whole year, Sunday’s films can be attended for $10 per ticket, as it is a public screening due to the hiring of the rights for” Breaker Morant- the Retrial” independently from the normal distributors.

Why not join the club for the whole year? There are 12 films in all in 2015, so membership at $60 costs only $5 per film for what is a very interesting and varied collection of movies. See you at the movies!

Contributed by John Wearne