A new Australian film telling the story of a struggling country town’s revitalisation with refugees stars one of Ballarat’s funniest residents.
The Merger tells the story of a failing country township of Bodgy Creek, where the population is dwindling and the jobs are scarce.
Former AFL star Troy Carrington (writer and actor Damian Callinan) decides the only way to revitalise the city’s ailing footy team is to recruit refugees from the nearby support centre.
Ballarat-based comedian Aaron ‘Gocsy’ Gocs is part of the cast, playing pub chef and second-rate footy player Porterhouse.
Known for his stand up and viral ‘classic stitch-up’ Youtube video, Gocs said it was “strange” to see himself on the silver screen, and on-set life was a steep learning curve.
“The first few days I was quite nervous, it was intimidating,” he said. “But the longer it went on, I became more comfortable.
“I’m not a good cook myself, so it was good to be a chef.
“I’ve been in a lot of struggling sports teams, so that really resonated too, but it’s a really nice message underneath about refugees and having to overcome a town that didn’t want them at first.”
Despite a sold-out world premiere at the Melbourne International Film Festival on August 12, The Merger came from humble beginnings. Shot regionally near Wagga Wagga on a modest budget, the film’s script emerged from a one man show by Callinan.
For director Mark Grentell, it was important that regional areas like Ballarat, Mildura and Wagga Wagga got to experience the film, as it reflects what’s happening on the ground.
“A lot of these towns are the front line for the changing face for the Australian landscape. The multiculturalism is being demonstrated in those towns more than anywhere, and they’re embracing it,” he said.
“The refugee issue is so big as a nation, that when you can just boil it down to one small community, and one small football club, it becomes much easier to understand and becomes identifiable.”
Grentell said the film provided a strong apolitical statement on the commonalities between white Australians and those seeking asylum on our shores.
“When you play against your opposition on grand final day, you’re told to hate them, but they just live 23 kilometres away,” he said.
“They’re just people, and I think that’s the beauty of a football jumper like an Australian flag, when you put that jumper on and you stand next to a guy from Ethiopia or Sudan, he becomes your teammate.”
The Merger will screen in Ballarat from September 6 at Regent Cinemas.
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