Beaudesert: a small town with big stories

Big Stories Small Towns presents an inspiring collection of stories from the locals of Beaudesert

The residents of Beaudesert have shared their most intimate stories — tales of love, sadness, family and belonging — on screen with award-winning filmmaker and Griffith Film School lecturer and alumnus Dr Peter Hegedus.

The collaboration forms part of the Big Stories Small Towns initiative, an evolving multi-platform documentary project with the aim of connecting local stories to build a diverse and inspiring portrait of country life.

Dr Hegedus says his time spent with the people of Beaudesert resulted in a collection of earnest, heartfelt and deeply personal stories that touch on the themes of reconciliation, resilience and change.

It was an experience he describes as “a great privilege”.

“To meet such interesting and genuine people and be instantly welcomed into their lives is a very special thing,” he says.

“As a filmmaker there is tremendous responsibility to craft a visual story that truthfully portrays the reality of life, particularly when dealing with such emotional themes.

“Yet as soon as I arrived I felt so immediately at home with this town, the people and their stories, so I knew what I had to do.”

Locals reveal the heart of a town

It was this awareness and approach that allowed him to so accurately reveal the depths of loss and trial for local dairy farmer Gregie and the chequered and colourful career of former Mayor Joy Drescher; while also offering an inter-generational insight into the region’s history and a glimpse at the bonds formed within an Indigenous mentoring program.

The little told story of ‘Blackbirding’ is also brought to light in a series of films created by Beaudesert filmmaker Elijah Cavangh, highlighting the former practice of taking South Sea Islanders from their homelands to be brought as indentured labourers to Australia.

Cavanagh was mentored by the Big Stories team as part of the two-month residency in Beaudesert during 2014. The team also ran workshops, made films with a variety of locals and staged exhibitions and events for the community.

L-R: Big Stories, Small Towns Founder and Creative Director Martin Potter, Producer Samantha Ryan, Beaudesert filmmaker Elijah Cavanagh and Director Peter Hegedus.
L-R: Big Stories, Small Towns Founder and Creative Director Martin Potter, Producer Samantha Ryan, Beaudesert filmmaker Elijah Cavanagh and Director Peter Hegedus.

Producer Samantha Ryan says she hopes the impact of the project will be long-lasting, as Beaudesert continues to build upon its living memory and collective identity.

“This project came out of conversations I began having with the community in 2013, when 150 commemorations were being held to recognise and reflect on the blackbirding history of the area,” she says.

“From there we have engaged the community on so many levels – from school children to older generations in the area, from all walks of life.

“That’s something I’m really proud to have achieved through the project.”

Big Stories, Small Towns Founder and Creative Director Martin Potter agrees, saying the Beaudesert stories are an ideal reflection of the outcomes that result when small communities are connected with passionate filmmakers.

“The heart of the Big Stories project has always been the collaboration between communitiesand the filmmakers-in-residence,” he explains.

“We focus on people caring and creating their own community and try to create inspiring local stories that can have a global impact.

“I think the Beaudesert stories will achieve that impact.”

The Beaudesert collection of stories will be screened at a special launch event to be attended by those who feature in the films and those involved in directing and producing, from 6.30pm, Monday 23 February at the Griffith Film School in South Bank.

A panel discussion led by Big Stories Creative Director and Producer Martin Potter on the future of community-based film and alternative funding and distribution models will also follow the screening.

Watch the stories online:

I believe that anything is possible.
Farmer Gregie, Scenic Rim Dairy.

I got to be Mayor, I could go back tomorrow.
Joy Drescher, Former Beaudesert Mayor.

Full collection:

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