bean in trench

I have always found Charles Bean interesting, but the more I found out about him, the more I found him oddly attractive.

He was a nerdy man, a classical scholar, beaky, with wire rimmed spectacles. He was gangly and thin and obsessive. A pelican of a man, all elbows and knees. He had a ferocious work ethic. He was brave; physically where it was necessary, and mentally where it mattered.

He was born a year before Ned Kelly was hanged, and he died during the Apollo space program. In his later years, he had the wisdom, anger and disappointment of man who had passed from the Victorian, to the Modern world.

At a time when we find such sentiments questionable, Charles Bean stood clearly as a nationalist and a patriot. But above all, he was a humanist. He believed in these things without wrapping himself in the flag or holding extreme political views. He believed we should be citizens not consumers, and he thought far into the future about the potential of the world to be a better place.

trench warfare

The film was shot mainly on a farm called Warrambeen. It’s a working sheep farm amidst windy grassland about an hour west from Geelong. We constructed Charles Beans dugout at Anzac Cove here, and dug the trenches for Gallipoli and France. The farm has a magnificent bluestone shearing shed and this doubled for an Australian shed in the year 1910, and served for a French barn in 1918. The veranda of the homestead became a Cairo bar. Warrambeen was a one stop shop for most of our locations, a big advantage when you’re working fast, and the film crew moved into shearer’s quarters for a week. It was like being on a school camp, only the food was better and there was more booze at night.

It was July. The days were short. We started work in the freezing dark and finished work in the, well, freezing dark, a routine only enlivened by the novelty of being rained on. But I remember it as fun.

Wain Fimeri, Director