In 1919 hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers are marooned in Europe and sport plays a key role in maintaining a delicate peace. During an uneasy peace, the war weary Anzacs need to be themselves occupied and kept busy until they can be demobilised and shipped home. Sport is one of the solutions put forward to keep the peace. In rowing, a handful of Australian heroes and not-such-heroes take their place in the epic 1919 Royal Henley Peace Regatta. These men are damaged, disillusioned and displaced by war. After a gruelling selection process, they will need to dispose of their god-like coach, cope with their physical and psychological injuries and learn to work together, before the Australians win the coveted King’s Cup in front of tens of thousands of spectators. This is a story about rehabilitation, repatriation, resilience and rowing.
BEHIND THE SCENES
BEHIND THE SCENES
BEHIND THE SCENES
A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing
This story explores themes of peace, repatriation, rehabilitation, resilience through a sporting story about rowing. This story recounts actual veterans who stepped out the bloodiest industrialised war and tried to keep their sanity on the sporting field as they awaited passage home. The story explores the state of mind of veterans facing a world with little community or government support and left with only to their own tenacity and resilience to survive a post war world. The journey these men undertook when they rowed into war at Gallipoli and rowed out the other side at Henley navigates themes of dispossession, displacement, PTSD, physical wounds leading to the ‘great silence’ that descended on the veterans after the Great War
What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?
The Oarsmen is about the 'peace' and our collective need to re-examine our approach to peace; assess the cost and enduring human legacy of the survivors. As survivors, many are physically and psychologically traumatised through much more severe and extraordinary experience of death and destruction than many others. I would like the film to engage as a robust discussion between the military, the government and society in evaluating how we measure a peaceful world and its cost.
What outcomes does the project hope to achieve from making this documentary?
Raise awareness of mental health and promote the issues of PTSD that afflict servicemen and women. To highlight the role of teamwork and sport in the healing process for those afflicted by war and trauma as they reintegrate back into society.
How will partnerships with this project help inform the project development?
The Australian Defence Force. We have worked with the ADF and ADF Rowing Club involved them in filming historical recreations of the story. The ADF are currently training for a centenary commemoration of the Peace Regatta at Henley in 2019.
Audience Engagement and Social Impact
What actions does this project hope for its viewers after seeing this film?
Understand the different types of psychological trauma that returned servicemen and women experience. To reflect upon a 100 year old story that resonates today in initiatives today such as the Invictus Games. To illustrate how sport, teamwork and resilience can assist people suffering from PTSD to make a valuable contribution to society and provide a positive outlet for their symptoms.
Measurement and Evaluation
What is the projects indicators for success?
A non-fiction book, The Oarsmen will be published by Hardie Grant Publishing in August 2019. This book will support and broaden the reach of the documentary. Already the story of The Oarsmen had been embraced by one school as Year 11 dramatic interpretation. The themes of resilience, displacement, trauma and PTSD are as relevant today as they were 100 hundred years ago. We would like to see this story adapted and integrated into education and as many schools as possible.