Then the wind changed

One of the best films made about disasters in the recent years, is local Strathewen resident Celeste Geer’s then the wind changed. It is about Strathewen, a little town that I have had a bit to do with after the fires (which I will detail in another post, another time, when I’m ready to cross the streams again!)

The film is a personal account of the fires that almost completely destroyed Strathewen, and taking 27 lives (of a population of around 220) in the process. I met Celeste during the memorial process that I helped run, and she and her husband Dom, and their kids are truly wonderful people (they also got me onto Treme). The process of putting together the film was extraordinarily hard, both through the personal challenges, and the fact she had days of footage to work with.

The film follows Celeste’s family’s story as well as a number of different stories from Strathewen community. The film is not sentimental; it presents things as they are. But it is true to recovery, giving us a deeper understanding of the complexity of recovery, the conflict, the ongoing grief and trauma, changing behaviours, the struggle of living in a caravan, with children, in the middle of winter. It is all there.

The film also reminds of why bushfire are a horror. The opening scenes are quite confronting (I was sitting with the Fire Services Commissioner, Craig Lapsley at the premier, and we were both pushed back in our seats in the opening minutes). If anyone wonders, why people “aren’t over it yet” then they need to watch this film, from start to finish. If you are not moved by it, go and get yourself a heart transplant.

Throughout all, though, there is a gentle hope that rides along with the rollercoaster ride that Strathewen  has faced since the fires, and there is a reminder that this is a story that is unfinished. There are no “they rode off into the sunset and lived happily ever afters”, which is often the case when we publicly try to represent disaster (think Jackie French’s well intentioned book about the Queensland Floods). It has more a feeling of “to be continued”

Again, anyone working in disaster management needs to watch this film.

For more information check out the website

This is one of my favourite pieces of music from the great Western Australian bands, the Panics. Sorry about the video, it’s not entirely appropriate, but close your eyes and listen to it instead.

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