The Gympie Times - - SCREENLIFE - WORDS: SEANNA CRONIN Swing­ing Sa­fari opens on Thursday.

If you grew up in the 1970s like film­maker Stephan El­liott, he aims to fill you with a warm, fuzzy feeling of nostalgia and em­bar­rass­ment with his new Aussie com­edy Swing­ing Sa­fari.

The director, best known for his ground-break­ing film The Ad­ven­tures of

Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, delves into the “lost decade” in this homage to his child­hood grow­ing up on the sub­ur­ban streets and beaches of Dee Why.

“It’s a trip down mem­ory lane,” he says. “I have a Priscilla prob­lem, where peo­ple ex­pect a film that will change the world in some way, but this is a flip through mine and ev­ery­body else’s photo al­bum (from that era).

“It trig­gers mem­o­ries, a lot of laughs and a lot of em­bar­rass­ment.”

Swing­ing Sa­fari fol­lows three fam­i­lies dur­ing an event­ful week in the sum­mer of 1975. When their beach town sud­denly hits the spot­light after the body of a 200-ton whale is washed ashore, teens Jeff and Melly think it’s the big­gest thing that ever hap­pened in their lives. Mean­while, their ec­cen­tric par­ents are ex­per­i­ment­ing with the sex­ual rev­o­lu­tion at a fon­due night.

“It’s loosely based on my child­hood, but when you make a film about a time and place ev­ery­body’s got a story to tell,” El­liott says.

“It was a gold­mine of peo­ple who felt like they had to purge their dread­ful child­hoods – dread­ful in a funny way. It was a time be­fore po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness and he­li­copter par­ent­ing when kids ran amok and par­ents got drunk.”

The film boasts a tal­ented Aussie cast in­clud­ing Guy Pearce, Asher Ked­die, Radha Mitchell and Kylie Minogue in her first lead­ing film role in more than a decade.

“Get­ting to work with Kylie was the ic­ing on the cake,” El­liott says.

“Priscilla was go­ing to be an ode to Kylie but I never got to do it... I had al­ways de­nied it in in­ter­views but by the time the stage show came around I man­aged to re­vert back to the orig­i­nal ideas... that opened a chan­nel be­tween Kylie and I.”

In her role as Kaye Hall, wife to Pearce’s tanned and mous­ta­chioed Keith, Minogue en­joyed a great de­gree of anonymity while film­ing on the Gold Coast.

“She came on deck know­ing she had the pop star per­sona and I did my ab­so­lute best to com­pletely bury it,” El­liott says.

“The first day she saw her cos­tume and wig she al­most burst into tears. I said ‘That pop star is gone love’.

“But there was a point where we were shoot­ing in the mid­dle of the Gold Coast and she was just wan­der­ing around say­ing ‘I’ve never had free­dom like this’.

“No one blinked be­cause she looked like a dowdy house­wife. There were no (re­quests for) self­ies, no au­to­graphs. She said it was the great­est va­ca­tion from Kylie.”

Noth­ing was too kitsch for El­liott and his pro­duc­tion team who built or made any­thing they couldn’t source from op shops.

“We looked at what Aus­tralia looked like at the time and it wasn’t just kitsch, it was a mess of ev­ery­thing,” he says.

“One thing we have learned is to beg, bor­row and steal. I saw the most stun­ning gar­den fur­ni­ture in a house and I just jumped over the fence and threw it over. We re­turned it of course.”

For a film about a “plot­less” decade,

Swing­ing Sa­fari is any­thing but bor­ing. “The ’60s was the sex­ual rev­o­lu­tion and then sud­denly ev­ery­thing calmed down,” El­liott says.

“Peo­ple had jobs, money... It was a weird mo­ment where there was a lot of free­dom. It was a lost decade where peo­ple didn’t know what to do. We were com­pletely plot­less.”

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