Oliver Cassidy – FRANKLIN film screening and Q and A with Oliver Cassidy

FRANKLIN film screening, followed by Q&A with Oliver Cassidy

Oliver Cassidy

Key words: Franklin, river, film, peaceful activism, diversity


FRANKLIN film screening, followed by Q & A with Oliver Cassidy, Principal cast and Co-Producer.

Franklin is a visually stunning feature-length documentary about Australia’s most significant environmental campaign: the seven-year battle to save Tasmania’s World-Heritage listed Franklin River from being dammed by a hydroelectric project in the early 1980s.

The story is told through the eyes of Oliver Cassidy, a musician, activist, transgender person and 8th generation Tasmanian. Oliver still grieves from the early passing of his environmentalist father Michael who died from bile duct cancer seven years ago. Mike left Oliver a few symbolic possessions, including his paddle, ice pick and snow shovel — handing down a challenge. Mike also left a diary from his days as an early and key activist in the Franklin campaign, containing vivid details of the 14-day journey Mike took down the river itself with his closest friends to the dam site blockade where he, along with 1271 other people, were arrested for demonstrating.Not ready to let him go, Oliver decides to follow his father’s footsteps and embark on an ambitious solo rafting adventure down the river to retrace Mike’s expedition. On the river and reading through Mike’s diary, Oliver gains a new understanding of the campaign’s legacy and its relevance to today’s environmental battles.

The stories of the key players of the campaign emerge through intimate interviews and neverseen-before archive footage. Campaign leader Bob Brown recalls his first life-changing experience of paddling the Franklin way back in 1976, which inspired him to not only save the river but dedicate the rest of his life to environmental politics and activism. Construction worker Kevin Bailey explains the view of the pro-dam side who wanted jobs for their families and economic development for Tasmania’s impoverished West Coast. Wilderness Society organiser Geoff Law provides insight into the high-stakes machinations of the seven-year struggle that neither side could afford to lose. The First Nations fight to protect their cultural heritage on the river as Kutikina Cave is explored in interviews with Uncle Jim Everett and Aunty Patsy Cameron.Upriver activists Lisa Yeates, Tim Morris and Benny Zable provide entertaining yet revealing anecdotes about putting on a show for the media whilst surviving for months on end in the remote rainforest of south-west Tasmania.

Back on the river, the pilgrimage tests Oliver more than he has ever been tested before. The memory of Mike, voiced by Hugo Weaving, reminds Oliver; ‘Once you’re on the river there’s no turning back, only one way home’. Pushing through exhaustion, cold and hunger — and still recovering from his recent gender affirmation surgery — Oliver sees himself anew amongst the broader diversity of life in an extraordinary landscape.

The historic story climaxes on “Green Day”, or “G-Day”, just days before the 1983 Australian Federal Election. The activists pulled together for one last push to prove to the world ‘we’re still here’ and to convince the citizens watching on in their lounge rooms across Australia to vote to save the river. Bob Hawke wins in a landslide and vows to stop the dam. But the State of Tasmania digs in and takes the issue all the way to the High Court. History is made as the court’s decision is eventually handed down and the greenies celebrate. But even then as it is now, the struggle to protect the environment was not over.

Under the direction of award-winning Kasimir Burgess (Fell, The Leunig Fragments), and with stunning 4K cinematography from Benjamin Bryan, the film provides a breathtakingly beautiful front row seat to Oliver’s intrepid river journey. We also find moments to ‘come up for air’ and simply marvel at a the timeless beauty of the naturally tannin-stained river and the thriving ecosystem that envelops it. This stepping between the macro and the micro, the past and the present, subtly paints a picture of the beautiful and the complex. It’s a timeless portrait of the Franklin River which has flowed free to the sea for thousands of years — and thanks to a generation of activists — continues to do so.

See FRANKLIN movie trailer here.


About the presenter/s

Principal cast and Co-Producer of the AACTA and Walkley Award nominated feature documentary Franklin, Oliver Cassidy has had a wide ranging career in the arts, beginning in Australia’s longest running play The Ship That Never Was, before moving to Queensland to study a Fine Arts degree majoring in film and television at QUT. His final year short film Lola The Magnificent won several awards including Best Film at the QNFA in 2010. Oliver also won Best music Video at the inaugural Online Video Awards for Phantom Hitmen’s Beautiful Mind in 2014 – a first of its kind made using the principles of Lean Filmmaking.

Oliver freelanced in film and TV production in Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Melbourne before Franklin drew him back to Tasmania, where he took up a thematically related position at the Tasmanian Conservation Trust. Oliver rediscovered a love of music, playing various instruments in Philomath – “a band with the philosophy of music risk taking and working in concert to discover a path to transportative harmony”. Philomath have had performances at festivals such as MONA FOMA and are regulars at MONA and other stages around Hobart. Music brought Oliver back full circle to the theatre as Music Director in Hobart Comedy Tours’ Sailor And The Bawd at the 2019 Festival of Voices, and Tasmanian Theatre Company’s production of Leo J Skilbeck’s Joan in 2021.

In early 2022 Oliver wrapped up a two year stint as the executive producer of the Tasmanian Theatre Company in time to launch his biggest project to date, Franklin, which has received much critical and audience acclaim, enjoying more than 22 weeks in Australian cinemas and, 18 months later, is still winning awards at film festivals around the world. Oliver continues to work for the natural world at the Tasmanian Conservation Trust, continuing that non-profit’s 56 year legacy of protecting biodiversity and the places we love.