Documentary raises bar as symbol of Oz culture
FILMING two female backpackers bartending in a rough Outback pub for six weeks allowed Hotel
Coolgardie director Pete Gleeson to experience the environment from a new perspective.
The Wa-filmed documentary follows 20-something Finnish backpackers Lina and Steph, who are forced to head to Perth to look for work after their money is stolen in Bali.
The job they secure is bartending at Denver City Hotel in remote Coolgardie, about 550km east of Perth, where they navigate the advances, innuendo and off-putting comments from the male-dominated clientele, and put-downs from their boss.
After some experience with these remote pubs, Gleeson thought it would be a fascinating place to film.
“I wasn’t in the mining industry; I used to go out and work as a labourer now and then while I was at film school,” he said.
“I’d be out there on the drinking side of the bar and hear the goings on, and these bars can be great places; a lot of fun can be had and they can be raucous and wild.
“I became interested in making a documentary set in that bar; what does this culture look like from the other side of the bar and through the eyes of people that visit? I thought the bar could act as an insightful microcosm for culture in general.”
Gleeson said he was intrigued to observe how outsiders would react to, and behave within, an environment they were unfamiliar with.
“You’ve got this dominant culture at work and all the norms and expectations and established positions in this environment, and then these newcomers come in and are expected to adapt,” he said.
For producer Melissa Hayward the footage prompted her to reflect on how she handled similar environments.
“It taught me how I do things in that environment and what I should take on board and shouldn’t,” she said.
“I’ve been in regional areas in Australia, and as an older woman and person of this culture, I navigate that space automatically and it comes fairly naturally in ways, but it highlighted aspects of that culture that perhaps I have become used to and perhaps should navigate in a different way.”
Producer Kate Neylon realised the universal nature of the documentary when she recognised pub behaviour she had seen outside of Australia.
Producers Kate Neylon and Melissa Hayward with Hotel Coolgardie director Pete Gleeson.