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Franklin River Journey (1980)

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clip Attraction of the wilderness education content clip 2

This clip chosen to be G

Clip description

Amateur botanist Antonius Moscal says that rafting down the wilderness of the Franklin River reminds him of the definition of God. Moscal says nature reflects God.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This clip shows amateur botanist Antonius Moscal rafting down the Franklin River in south-western Tasmania in 1980. In voice-over, actor John Bluthnal translates Moscal and quotes him as he reflects on his attraction to the wilderness and his philosophy and attitudes to nature and God. A soundtrack of haunting liturgical choir music runs through the clip.

Educational value points

  • The Franklin River is one of the last remaining wild rivers in Australia, carving its way through gorges and mountainous rainforest before merging with the Gordon River to flow into Macquarie Harbour on Tasmania’s west coast. As one of only three remaining temperate wilderness areas in the southern hemisphere, the region provides pristine habitats for a range of unique plants and animals. In December 1982 it was listed as a World Heritage Area.
  • One of the most important elements in this clip is the choral music, which accompanies the footage of Antonius Moscal as his small canoe journeys through the vaulting gorges created by the river. In this clip the music seems to respond to the grand nature of the environment as well as the narration, in which Moscal describes his response to the idea of God ('I don’t believe in a god as such’) and the reality of the Franklin.
  • Filmmaker Bob Connolly says the documentary Franklin River Journey (1980) was essentially an 'advocacy film’ – a type of film that seeks to engender political support. The film aimed to show images of the Franklin River specifically to prevent the damming of the river by the Hydro-Electric Commission. It was the support film at the premiere of the Tasmanian feature film Manganinnie (1980), an event attended by the state Premier.
  • The filmmakers constructed their influential documentary with a sting in its tail. Most of the film focuses on the pristine beauty of the Franklin River, and only at the end is the audience informed that the river is at risk of being dammed. After the film’s premiere screening the audience sat in stunned silence until someone yelled out 'Save the Franklin’ and spontaneous applause broke out.
  • When this film was released, the damming of the Franklin had already become an international issue. The World Heritage Committee in Paris had expressly advised against going ahead with the dam. The world-famous botanist David Bellamy had publicly spoken out against the dam, as had Britain’s Prince Charles. An opinion poll published by the Sydney Morning Herald in October 1982 indicated that 75 per cent of those polled opposed the dam.
  • The campaign to save the Franklin River attracted national and international support. In 1981 the Tasmanian government held a referendum on a site for the dam; 44 per cent of the electorate cast an informal vote by writing 'No Dams’ on their ballots. In 1983 the Hawke Labor federal government brought in legislation prohibiting further construction. The Tasmanian government challenged the legislation in the High Court but lost by a 4:3 majority.
  • Antonius Moscal left post-Second World War Europe, migrating to Tasmania from Romania in search of remote nature. An amateur botanist for more than 50 years, Moscal has travelled to remote regions of Tasmania and collected specimens of more than 31,000 different plants. Of his trip to the Franklin, Moscal says 'I thought I could contribute towards the knowledge of something which has not been surveyed botanically yet by going while I was still a fit person’ (http://www.filmaust.com.au).
  • Bob Connolly (1945–) and his wife Robin Anderson (1952–2002) are internationally acclaimed documentary makers known particularly for their trilogy of films, First Contact (1983), Joe Leahy’s Neighbours (1989) and Black Harvest (1992), about the consequences of modern society on the Ganiga tribe of Papua New Guinea. Their other films include Franklin River Journey (1980), Rats in the Ranks (1996) and Facing the Music (2001).

Botanist Antonius Moscal rafts down the Franklin River in south-western Tasmania in 1980. Actor John Bluthnal translates Moscal and quotes him. Liturgical choir music runs through the clip.

John (voice-over) For me the attraction of the wilderness is not escapism, but to satisfy curiosity. To see nature as it was created from the beginning. Here everything is the same as it was for thousands of years. Creation is portraying itself without any outside influences. I don’t believe in God as such. To me nature is, in a sense, eternal existence – although some people might call that God. I personally cannot separate things. I see God in nature, and as I am part of nature I am part of God also.

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