The Drill Hall Film Society

On its return the Film Society will screen films on the the last Saturday of each month at 2 pm


Membership:  New memberships are $20 for the calendar year (February to December) and then $5 for each movie attended.  2020 members may rejoin for just $10.
Guests may also attend screenings at a cost of $10 per film (limited to 3 films in the 12 month period)
Membership payment can be made at the door or by contact Sonia on 66842112 for online payment details.
To register your attendance please contact Sonia on 66842112 or via email at  

Saturday 31st July at 2 pm

Last Cab to Darwin


This film is a gentle, low-key drama about a dying man’s bid to leave this world on his own terms. Adapted from the play by Reg Cribb and loosely based on a real-life story, the film tells of a cabby who has never left his hometown, Broken Hill. Surgery didn’t get all of his stomach cancer, and he’s got about three months to live. And this is his mission: to die. Rex says goodbye to his neighbour and the local barflies and takes to the road, picking up a couple of randoms on the way.

Despite its sombre theme, the film is mainly a conventional road movie — a picaresque journey across our dazzling interior that changes his outlook, starting with the rides he gives to a chatty footballer with hopes of pursuing a career in the AFL and an English backpacker and qualified nurse who quits her job at a remote pub after coming to the aid of sick cabbie. When the three arrive in Darwin, issues loom; the law is still in flux as an euthanasia advocate, Dr Farmer has developed a new machine that administers death literally at the press of a button.

For a while the film feels like a tourist catalogue of outback pubs and an ode to the fair dinkum Aussie tradition of drinking beer no matter how many body functions conk out. When the characters are fleshed out, it begins to feel much more than that, though director Jeremy Sims falls into a pattern of offsetting dark moments with light ones (and vice versa) to the point at which tonal shifts can be second guessed. A happy scene with smiles and laughs, for example, usually leads to a sad one reminding us of the protagonist’s fading health.

Cinematographer Steve Arnold captures a warm and crispy glow, as if instructed to create a look reflecting early morning sunshine. Sims and Cribb (who co-adapted the screenplay) invest plenty of thought into the characters and extrapolate from them an at times touching degree of heart and humour – particularly in the touch-and-go relationship between the cabbie and his neighbour.


Saturday 28th August at 2 pm

Bran Nue Day


Director Rachel Perkins’s soulful and spritzy crowd-pleaser Bran Nue Dae, adapted from a stage production by Aboriginal playwright and composer Jimmy Chi, has a dancing foot in both camps. The characters play instruments and sing in groups but also burst into spontaneous song in the manner of a theatre show or a Hollywood musical.

Perkins draws together other playful technical properties: unconventional twists and twirls of the camera, bursts of light and quirky sound effects. There is a rich, zesty vitality coursing through Bran Nue Dae.

Ernie Dingo performs a surreal and magnificently staged rendition of a Dreamtime rumination “Listen to the News” while Missy Higgins, Dan Sultan and others fill out the show-stopping tune which brings them all together, and for which the production is best known, “There is Nothing I Would Rather Be Than to be an Aborigine”.

In Rachael’s earlier 1998 feature, Radiance, there is suggestion of a more contemplative, stately style, but here she enthusiastically takes to the moments of farce and productions numbers. Much like another Australian musical by a then young director, Gillian Armstrong’s Starstruck from 1982, Bran Nue Dae carries the day with energy and self-belief.

The film is noted by its primary-colours, production design and ebullient musical numbers, which hammer home the inevitable life lessons but also introduce much-needed bursts of levity, joy and satire. In one delicious scene, boys in war paint prance their way through a number on the back of a truck. It’s a cheeky poke in the ribs, that dance, not just for racists but also for liberals who insist on exoticising Aboriginal culture.

Saturday 25th September at 2 pm

The Rocket


Local documentary film maker Kim Mordaunt’s The Rocket is a debut fiction, set in Laos. It is a likable piece of work whose gentleness is an interesting contrast to the grim and even tragic subject matter. The Rocket seems to have grown out of Mordaunt’s 2007 documentary Bomb Harvest, about the work of an Australian bomb disposal expert trying to clear away the huge number of unexploded devices dropped on Northern Laos by the US during the Vietnam war. Children are still at risk from these terrifying objects in the ground.

The story is about a young Laotian boy, Ahlo, who is believed by his family to be “cursed”, a bringer of bad luck. Ahlo battles on, however, making friends with an orphan and her wacky uncle Purple, and comes to believe that if he can win the local firework competition with his homemade rocket he can hit back at his own bad luck – and maybe in some way hit back at the bad fate that sent bombs raining down on Laos.

What gives this movie its sting is that, despite Kim’s insistent attempts at uplift, death hovers over this story at every single moment, from the truck filled with bombs on which the family hitches a ride to the eye-poppingly dangerous rocket contest that gives the movie its title. Here, every smile feels etched in sorrow.

Ahlo and Purple are two halves of a coin, the youngster traumatised but offering hope for the future yet to come, while the elder, despite his largely comical demeanour, represents the ghost of childhood suffering past. But Mordaunt’s film is robust and neither melancholy nor sentimental. He and his cinematographer Andrew Commis have an easy way with the camera, capturing the playfulness and energy of childhood and, by presenting events almost exclusively from the children’s perspective, he brings a freshness and an easy route into the story for those with no previous knowledge of Laos.

Kim Mordaunt will be introducing the film and there will be a Q&A afterwards

Saturday 30th October at 2 pm

The Sapphires


Set in the heady days of 1968, four young, talented singers from a remote Aboriginal mission, are discovered by an unlikely talent scout. Plucked from obscurity and branded as Australia’s answer to The Supremes, The Sapphires grasp the chance of a lifetime when they’re offered their first real gig – entertaining the troops in Vietnam. For the girls, a whole new world of sex, war, politics and soul opens before them.

Based on a true story and adapted from the stage play, The Sapphires is an over-the-top journey that’ll have you laughing, crying and celebrating the achievement of these four amazing aboriginal women.

It was always going to be tricky to turn such an amazing stage show into a film. Although it is over-played in parts and there is a “stageiness” to it, the heart of the film is so warm and there is so much to like – from the music to the voices to the Australian story.

Actor, stage director and film director Wayne Blair cites The Colour Purple as inspiration for the stylised warmth emanating from the girls’ home, in a clear break from traditionally bleak depictions of mission life. The sun-drenched tranquillity of their family home underscores the girls’ core sense of belonging – and how… As depicted in The Sapphires, the Cummeragunja Mission could well be the happiest place on earth.

The upbeat cinematography is by Warwick Thornton who went on to direct Samson and Delilah and Sweet Country. It’s saturated brights all the way, and production designer Melinda Doring clearly had a ball with the colour-popping period retro. Full marks to the sound team, led by supervisor Andrew Plain and music producer Bry for maximising the impact of songs from the Motown, Stax and Atlantic Records catalogues.

The screenplay is by Tony Briggs, son of one of the original Sapphires, Beverly Briggs, in collaboration with Keith Thompson, and is an adaptation of his own stage play.

Saturday 27th November at 2 pm

Wake in Fright


Kenneth Cook was posted as a young man by the ABC to Broken Hill in the early 1950s. This experience provided the basis for his scarifying first novel, Wake in Fright (1960). Gary, a young schoolteacher bonded to the NSW Education Department to teach in a desolate desert whistle-stop, visits “Bundayabba” (Broken Hill) on his way back to Sydney, surf and girlfriend for the vacation, loses all his money in a two-up game in a desperate attempt to pay off his bond and descends into drunkenness and depravity with the friendly locals.

This film, directed by the young Canadian director Ted Kotchoff, with a couple of foreign leads, Donald Pleasance and Gary Bond, was quite happy to accept Cook’s ugly Australians as his local characters and his parody of “mateship” as the social cement binding them together. The dialogue may be spare but we are right inside Gary’s head as he loses it. Gary Bond as the hapless schoolteacher is very convincing. Chips Rafferty as the local policeman with a pragmatic approach to enforcing the law exudes a low-level air of menace. Donald Pleasance as “Doc” the alcoholic ex-doctor who leads Gary astray is quite menacing, at the same time as being very amusing.

Wake in Fright is best seen as very vivid fiction, a horror movie in fact. Kenneth Cook may not have set out to write non-fiction. Neither was Ted Kotchoff trying to make a documentary. But, with good actors and a host of authentic extras, he created such a realistic atmosphere that many viewers were misled.

The film, which launched the career of Jack Thomson for one, is said to have given the Australian film industry a boost. Certainly, some fine films followed ; “Picnic at Hanging Rock”, “The Getting of Wisdom”, “The Devil’s Playground”, “The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith” for example.

Saturday 11th December at 2 pm

(Please note the pre-Christmas time and not the last Saturday of the month)

Ladies in Black


Despite the dark shade indicated in its title, a sunny patina is pivotal to Bruce Beresford’s Ladies in Black; to its summertime Christmas setting, its golden-hued recreation of Sydney in 1959, and its tale of identity, opportunity and tolerance. Based on Madeleine St John’s 1993 novel  The Women in Black (which was also adapted into an award-winning Australian musical called Ladies in Black in 2015) this is a hopeful, humorous and handsomely staged look at the lives of department store clerks facing personal and societal upheaval. While the narrative is straight forward, even as it touches upon timely themes of equality, multiculturalism and the treatment of refugees, the feature’s optimism always shines.

Focusing on Christmas 1959, Australia was at this point in the middle of a sustained economic boom and accompanying social changes, mirroring those elsewhere in the world. The time is exemplified here by the emergence of a new, self-confident generation of young women and the parallel integration of post-WWII refugees from Europe.

While the external shots of the film are the old Mark Foy’s department store (now the Downing Courts Complex) the assistants are clad in the title’s sable-hued attire, a la David Jones.

The presence of the Hungarian-flavoured influx of well-educated, culturally rich newcomers — somewhat scornfully dubbed ‘reffos’ by certain of the longer-established communities — provides Ladies in Black with a welcome depth that counterbalances the general air of brightly lit, excessively scored buoyancy which prevails. The status of refugees has been a significant source of controversy of late and is seldom far away from the headlines. Ladies in Black quietly but effectively points out the seldom-stressed positives of immigration and integration, and thus deserves considerable attention.

On the technical side, every frame of Ladies in Black looks the polished period part, from the meticulous production design by Felicity Abbott to the sleek, tailored costuming by Wendy Cork. And, unsurprisingly, seasoned Beresford cinematographer Peter James makes a spot-on contribution to this effervescent account of women seeking change on the cusp of the feminism-fuelled, culturally accepting Sixties.

The Drill Hall Film Society’s aim is to screen classic cinema at low cost to members in the convivial atmosphere of the historic Drill Hall Theatre, Mullumbimby, with its tiered seating and air-conditioning.

Refreshments are available and discussion before and after the film is encouraged, occasionally with featured artists involved with the presented film.