'Regenerating Australia' — a film for our times

Australian landscape
The film was made in response to the devastating 2019–20 bushfires. Photo: Jacob Colvin/Pexels

Regenerating Australia
Directed by Damon Gameau (2022)
Showing in various locations around the country

Horrific bushfires swept large parts of Australia between July 2019 and May 2020, devastating more than 24 million hectares of land, killing more than 30 people and more than 2 billion native animals.

Since then we have watched the government drag its heels in reconstructing communities and taking effective action to stop climate change.

Progressive filmmaker Damon Gameau responded to the disaster by making this 17-minute film. Set in the future, on New Year's Eve of December 2029, a range of ordinary Australians answer questions about what they would like the country to be like, looking back from the perspective of the year 2030.

Many of these people were traumatised survivors of the fires and for them the process became one of healing, Gameau told Green Left. Moreover, as the conversations progressed he heard themes arise.

“Teenagers in the city who were student climate strikers talked about their fears, and farmers in the bush talked about wanting to see the landscape return to how they knew it 30 years ago," Gameau said. "It was different language but the same concern.”

The film is structured like a TV news program with well-known TV personalities hosting.

Gameau said the themes revealed by the interviewees are “a desire for community, having a say in governance and frustrations with the chinks in our system of democracy”. Most importantly, opportunities for action to stop climate change emerge.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has established a $2 million fund to support community projects emerging from showings of Regenerating Australia.

Gameau, who also made the climate change documentary 2040 and That Sugar Film, is currently travelling the country showing the film at community screenings. When he spoke to Green Left from Gladstone he had completed 43 of 73 scheduled showings.

“Each showing starts with a welcome to country, a performance such as didgeridoo or singing to centre people, then the film followed by discussion,” Gameau said. “People end up swapping phone numbers and organising for their own projects, which is the whole point.

Regenerating Australia is an antidote to the predominantly apocalyptic messaging that our media and online algorithms are so good at spreading.”

[Watch the film's trailer.]