Then the Wind Changed (2012) 57min · Documentary · 7 February 2012
Strathewen: a lush green paradise where families built their homes to raise their children, close to nature. But at 3am one summer morning residents are woken by the trees thrashing in the hot northerly wind. "It felt like we were in a tinderbox". The lucky ones drive out before the firestorm spreads across the darkened countryside and the trucks start to explode. Dom works with the fire service and stays behind to look for survivors. Miraculously, the fire has skipped over his house. But fate struck his neighbor Denis a crueler blow. A falling tree blocked his family's escape and they perished in the bath, where they were sheltering from the inferno. Dini's husband and son couldn't get home and died on the road. "To lose your family is such an incomprehensible thing". Amid the awful silence and blackened trees the clean-up is loud and jarring. Heavy rains gouge furrows on the blackened hillsides. Australia's Eucalyptus forests have been burning and renewing for thousands of years. Native grasses now flourish within the burnt forest. So life goes on with that awful feeling: it could have been me. Olee is a farmer who lost his crop, his house and his dogs. He's gripped by "constant panic". Strathewen tries to function as a community. But there's anger. No official warning came on Black Saturday. Bodies of loved ones were left to rot in cars. But months and years pass and people begin to move on, to lose the adrenaline that gripped them that day. Denis finds love again in relief worker Susie. Lola can at last play out those "scary things" with her toys. Bron laughs: "We take our children to psychologists instead of ballet!" Two-and-a-half years on, Olee's house is at last being rebuilt and Bron's new house is ready. Olee remains unsure he can cope, but for others, a future seems possible. At times intensely moving, this film makes us all wonder how we and our children would cope if death struck all around.
Director(s): Celeste Geer
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