Directions to 'Never Town'
Patagonia’s latest film is called Never Town and the title conjures various shades of Australiana. Out on the wastes of the Never Never, landscape blanched by sunlight, where there’s beauty in the bleak and there’s menace too.
The storyline, at least on the surface, features Dave Rastovich, Wayne Lynch, and Belinda Baggs surfing and talking - out in the desert, deep in the bush. Rasta and Baggs lean sincere, while Lynch sounds like an R-rated Tim Winton. Righteous but ribald.
Yet Never Town is more than a surf film, it’s also a protest film. The trio met with surfers and activists around the coastline, those who've heeded a call to arms. If there's a central theme in Never Town it's that other surfers should do likewise.
45 years ago Nat Young theatrically said, “Just by surfing we’re supporting the revolution.” And at the time surfers willingly disengaged from politics. It made ‘revolution’ easy. Black and white and effortless. I’m not sure if Nat’s pronouncement ever held true, but whatever the case, Patagonia now take the counter-opinion: surfing isn’t enough, political engagement is necessary.
Of course, political engagement is riven with tensions and debate, and the same is true with Never Town. Rasta, Lynch, and Baggs visit delicate locations. Delicate because they’re in the firing line of industry and also because they’ve been kept on the down low by surfers for decades.
In the early 1970s, photographer Olegas Truchanas worked extensively around the Lake Pedder area of south-west Tasmania, including the Gordon and Franklin Rivers. His photos documented the untouched wilderness of south-west Tasmania, and they were also instrumental in saving the Gordon and Franklin Rivers from being dammed.
To most people, south-west Tasmania was out of sight and out of mind. Yet Truchanas’ work placed the wilderness in public view and his photos became instruments of protest. People could picture the landscape and realise what would be lost.
Heath Joske also stars in Never Town
This is the conundrum facing communities in South Australia and King Island. The former due to drilling in the bight that would paint them black should a Deepwater Horizon accident ever happen, the latter due to industrial fish farming off the north-west coast. There’s is a delicate dance to tread, as is Patagonia’s by virtue of taking a camera to some of those places. Reserve any judgement till after you’ve seen the film.