LAST WEEK the national tour of my book and film Whatever Happened to Brenda Hean? launched in Hobart: ( Heidi Douglas review here )
Both works pull no punches and censor no unsightly story in searching for the truth of the disappearance of conservationist Brenda Hean and pilot Max Price. The sold out sessions at the State Cinema are testament to how deeply the story resonates with Tasmanians. For this very reason, the pundits who would rather keep the family secrets hidden are lining up to condemn me.
Rodney Croome ( Here )claims that I portray Tasmania – home to my family for over 150 years – in an unnecessarily negative light. He does not accept that there are many possibilities and perspectives and mine might be just one of them.
Croome asks for ideological censorship, a shallow sunny version of Tasmania and objects, not because anything in book or film is false, but because this story does not conform to his view of the world.
His article in The Mercury last Wednesday fails to appreciate the very point of exploring whatever happened to Brenda Hean.
This is a murder mystery. One would expect a story of this genre to be dark and confronting – it is after all an investigation of a possible homicide.
Croome overlooks the complex layers of this story. He turns his back on the array of new evidence we uncovered, the black humour, the extraordinary poetry of conservationists such as Elspeth Vaughan who return us to Pedder, the delightful odyssey of Stan Hanuszewicz and Derek Kooistra searching for the plane for 20 years, the philosophy of environmental reconciliation revealed by Tim Flannery and Richard Flanagan, the brave optimism of people who risk much to speak of the threats and violence against them in current environmental battles, and the revelations that occur in the depths of this darkness.
He ignores that every character in this film – and I interviewed 75 of them – wanted to be part of this story because this story is about us.
And he fails to recognise that, in the absence of proper public enquiry into the disappearance of Hean and Price, in the absence of a forum to discuss the perpetual corruption of the body politic, of the cycle of violence against landscape and spirit, I empowered all of these people to speak. To break the silence.
No, Croome ignores all this and simply objects, because this is a story that confronts us with a rather uncomfortable truth.
This is the violence of Tasmania.
It will surprise many that Croome should attack the film in this manner. After all, Tasmania has only become the more liberal and open society of recent years because Croome, Nick Toonen and an extraordinary community of activists dragged Tasmania kicking and screaming to acknowledge its homophobia. Gay law reform was only achieved – indeed widespread social reform has only occurred – because there was a point of acknowledgement of an undeniable injustice.
Whatever Happened to Brenda Hean? is a story of acknowledgement. I made this film, I wrote this book, I even personally offered the $100,000 reward, because I felt that we as a community must acknowledge the violence done. The violence to Lake Pedder, to Brenda Hean and Max Price, against the forests of Tasmania and against ordinary people who stand up to protect our environment.
In my personal experience, the perpetrators of violence rarely acknowledge what they have done. Only the brave confront the past. And only the brave and the resolute follow this acknowledgement by leading their communities forward, optimistically, with hope. After all, optimism must be earned not just asserted.
My film and my book end with an extraordinary dive into the depths of the Lake Pedder impoundment. It reveals that the original Lake is not lost. There is surprisingly not even a layer of silt hiding the beach of old. The dunes remain intact, the water streams refuse to give up their million year flows. A hand holds up the crystal white sand to the camera. This image demonstrates the irrefutable possibility of restoring this unique place.
What could be more inspiring than the possibility of this kind of redemption? What could be more symbolic to a world overwhelmed by global environmental challenges, than a gesture demonstrating that we Tasmanians are prepared to confront and undo the mistakes of the past? What is more optimistic than a hand that reveals the truth?
Scott Millwood is the author of the book, and director of the film, Whatever Happened to Brenda Hean?
Scott Millwood The Mercury, Tuesday 14 October, 2008 page 25
And he fails to recognise that, in the absence of proper public enquiry into the disappearance of Hean and Price, in the absence of a forum to discuss the perpetual corruption of the body politic, of the cycle of violence against landscape and spirit, I empowered all of these people to speak. To break the silence. No, Croome ignores all this and simply objects, because this is a story that confronts us with a rather uncomfortable truth. This is the violence of Tasmania.