Outback Queensland town takes on starring role

Vision Splendid film festival’s return to Winton boosts tourism industry.

The annual Vision Spendid Outback Film Festival offers a beacon of hope for an outback tourism industry devastated by COVID-19.

The festival returns to Winton, the “Hollywood of the outback”, on September 18–26 with more than 30 screenings, including four world premieres.

Outback Film Festival Director Mark Melrose (pictured below) said at a launch in Brisbane it was a relief to be able to continue the event during the coronavirus pandemic.

“It was touch and go for a long time,” Mr Melrose said.

“It's a very, very good feeling to be able to put this thing on in real terms, with people coming and watching and driving tourism to the town.”

The Vision Splendid is the only film festival to be held in Australia this year because of the impacts of the coronavirus and one of the few outback tourism events to go ahead.

Vision Splendid director Mark Melrose.

The festival continues to establish itself as a significant event on Queensland’s and Australia’s cultural and tourism calendars.

Mr Melrose said as well as giving exposure to Australian films, the festival played an important role generating tourism dollars for outback Queensland.

“One of the main goals of what we try to do is to drive tourism and put people in the beds and in the restaurants and in the pubs in and around Winton,” Mr Melrose said.

“It’s an important element to outback Queensland from a tourism point of view. The money that is spent in town from the travellers is a lifeline that they desperately require out there.

“Obviously, the dinosaurs help no end to drive people to Winton and there is the history around Qantas and Waltzing Matilda in that area, so it is a national place of interest.

Royal Theatre in Winton.

“We’re just adding to that and creating a new persona in the ‘Hollywood of the outback’.”

The idea of an outback film festival emerged after the 2013 premiere screening of Mystery Road, which was shot in the region, at Winton’s iconic Royal Theatre.

“They crammed as many people as they possibly could into the theatre because half the town were actually in the movie and then everybody saw what that did to the local area and it came from that,” Mr Melrose said.

“One of the town’s businessmen said, ‘Let's create a film festival’, and that’s where it started.

“Since that first one we’ve grown probably 350% in attendance … from to just making it through that first one to becoming a profitable event, which is where we sit today.”

The festival will open on 18 September with the screening of the documentary Slim & I.
Films to premiere at Winton this year will be The Flood, Moon Rock For Monday, A Guide To Dating At The End Of The World and Deadhouse Dark.

Vision Splendid highlights

Slim & I (18 September)

For more than 50 years country music legend Slim Dusty and his wife Joy McKean trail-blazed their way across Australia performing, writing and collecting songs of the bush and its people. They created a musical legacy that to this day continues to entertain and inspire, a catalogue of plain-speaking yet profoundly insightful music documenting the rural Australian experience. Theirs is perhaps one of the greatest partnerships in Australian music history. Slim & I is a feature documentary that tells the incredible story of that partnership and of the brilliant woman who lived beside rather than behind the legend, Australia’s own “Queen of Country Music”, Joy McKean.

The Flood (19 September)

Set during World War II, this revisionist "western" is described by writer and director Victoria McIntyre as a “Quentin Tarantino meets Jane Campion rollicking, rollercoaster ride with a lot of heart and truth”. It is the story of Jarah’s coming-of-age in a brutal and lawless land – growing from a sweet child to a strong, independent and ferocious woman taking on Australia’s corrupt and bigoted system one bad guy at a time. In the best tradition of the gunslinging outlaw, when the enigmatic Jarah is pushed to the limit she explodes in a fury of retribution. But for a revenge Indigenous western there is a surprising series of twists and turns. 

Moon Rock For Monday (21 September)

After an unlikely encounter at a Sydney train station, Monday, a young terminally ill girl befriends a fugitive teenage boy and they travel to visit a “moon rock” that Monday believes will heal her. Her single father searches for her with increasing desperation. This is a high-stakes road movie and transforms from a journey of survival to an adventure of growing and discovery, meeting a bunch of quirky characters on the way. 

Still from Australian film Moon Rock For Monday.

A Guide To Dating At The End Of The World (22 September)

Sometimes all it takes is an apocalyptic catastrophe to help find your true love. After their first date, Alex declares she would not go out with John even if he were the last man on Earth. The next day she wakes to find he is exactly that … the last left on earth. With everyone gone they have time to get to know each other and all is going well. Then suddenly they meet Wendy. She is the smarter and prettier ‘other woman’ – and she has a plan to bring everyone back. Will Wendy come between Alex and John as she tries to save the world? Not if Alex and her trusty Epilady have anything to do with it.

Deadhouse Dark (25 September)

A series of six short horror stories anchored by a woman who receives a ‘mystery box’ from the dark web, and then discovers the sinister secret it holds.

Click here for tickets and more information on the Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival

Film synopses from visionsplendidfilmfest.com

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