Kangaroo Island Soldier Settler film 'Fighting to Farm' nears completion

FARM FIGHTER: Des Johnston, one of the subjects of the new Soldier Settler documentary 'Fighting to Farm', with Kangaroo Island filmmaker Daniel Clarke. Photo: Amy Pysden
FARM FIGHTER: Des Johnston, one of the subjects of the new Soldier Settler documentary 'Fighting to Farm', with Kangaroo Island filmmaker Daniel Clarke. Photo: Amy Pysden

A new documentary film about the farming families of western Kangaroo Island is set to premiere at Parndana this November.

Set in the wake of the devastating summer bushfires, Fighting to Farm chronicles the remarkable tale of returned World War II veterans and their families who created farms and communities across the undeveloped western end of the island.

The film, with its stunning footage and touching interviews, is particularly poignant given the impact of the recent bushfire disaster that destroyed up to 90 per cent of the Soldier Settler houses.

Makers of the feature documentary about Kangaroo Island's Soldier Settlers have this week released an official trailer and film poster.

'Fighting to Farm' tells the story of the veterans and their families who created farms and communities across the undeveloped western end of Kangaroo Island.

'Fighting to Farm' tells the story of the veterans and their families who created farms and communities across the undeveloped western end of Kangaroo Island.

Islander Daniel Clarke, producer and director for Ad Hoc Docs and Ninti Media, said the team had sourced exclusive archival footage and photos from the 1950s after a story was published in The Islander in April.

The Department of Defence meanwhile supplied stunning video of the work undertaken by serving soldiers in the aftermath of the fires.

Mr Clarke said editing of the film was soon to be completed after a year of production with the help of co-producer Pat Brooksby at the Parndana Soldier Settlement Museum.

"The process has been a deep dive into some very rich history of Kangaroo Island," Mr Clarke said.

"Meeting and hearing the stories from the original Soldier Settlers and their families has been a real honour.

The more I learnt, the more I realised how vital it is to tell this story, especially at this time in history.

"It's remarkable what they achieved in some fairly harsh conditions. More people need to understand the level of determination and resilience that these families displayed to open up the western end of the Island.

"We were fortunate to have conducted most of the interviews before Coronavirus hit, otherwise it would have been a difficult project to complete."

The one-hour documentary features interviews with original Soldier Settlers Des Johnston, Dudley Roberts and Cec Harris, as well as Ivy Wooton, wife of the late Tom Wooton.

Production has been a local affair, with young Kangaroo Island filmmakers Isaac Doman, Jemma Mcgowan and Cobey Hann working as crew, with drone pilot David Rhodes providing stunning aerial footage before and after the fires.

Local musicians Scott Ellson, Craig Smart and Jemma Mcgowan also contributed to the soundtrack, while Parndana Campus students Shakira Tremaine and Jay Whale created animation scenes.

'Fighting to Farm' is set to premiere in Parndana in November.

'Fighting to Farm' is set to premiere in Parndana in November.

The documentary is funded by the History Trust of South Australia, Parndana Soldier Settlement Museum, US-based Coriolis Films and the Independent Arts Foundation.

Clarke said television broadcasters had already shown interest in the film and it was hoped it will receive national exposure.

A special premiere of the film will be held in Parndana in November with more details to be announced.

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