In May, ACMI’s Content Development team visited the Mt Alexander Shire towns of Castlemaine, Maldon and Newstead, to document the region and its people (read about their adventures here). In September, they returned to the local communities to screen the finished films.
The first night saw the team setting up in the Newstead Community Hall in Maldon. The locals arrived dressed in an array of outfits, from formal to fancy dress. The Mayor of Mt Alexander, Janet Cropley, welcomed the audience of 170 before the six films were introduced, all of which were very warmly received (especially the three films set in Maldon).
The locals commented that they enjoyed the way the region was represented in the films and many said they had learnt a great deal about their neighbours even though they had lived in the town for many years.
At the end of the evening a prize was handed out for the best costume and it was universally agreed that Rhym De Havilland’s Charlie Chaplin was a deserved winner.
The next day the team set up the giant screen in the Mechanics Hall in Newstead. Before the screening, the crowd of 100+ was entertained by Mauri Gervasoni and his accordion, who was the subject of one of the films. After introductory speeches, six films were screened, with the film featuring the Newstead Community Pool a particular favourite.
Finally, the ACMI team headed to Castlemaine for a screening at one of Australia’s oldest cinemas, the Theatre Royal (itself the subject of one of the nine films screened on the night). An audience of almost 200 gathered on the upper balcony and in the stalls and were entertained by the Freedom Choir’s short set of well-known songs.
After a brief introduction by Mt Alexander Shire Council Arts Officer, Jon Harris, ACMI’s Kim Montgomery recounted her experiences during both the initial trip to film the stories back in May and on this return trip for the screenings. It was evident that strong links had been forged between the local communities and ACMI during the project and this was evinced in the audience reaction to the films.
Afterwards, many people had particularly warm things to say about the films featuring Shani Aziz, a Hip Hop dancer, and Kinga, a local celebrity, both living in Maldon.
Going back to the communities to screen the films is an important part of the project. It’s a chance to celebrate the local community and the generosity of those who so graciously invited us to into their homes, offices, galleries, swimming pools and gardens.
The films shot in Mt Alexander Shire will be available to watch on the ACMI website soon.