Local premiere for Bentley 'No CSG' film

29 September 2016
Interview with the director of The Bentley Effect, Brendan Shoebridge.

In March 2011, filmmaker Brendan Shoebridge went to a 'No coal seam gas (CSG)' mining rally in the CBD of his northern NSW hometown of Lismore, a small rally he said had only attracted around 300 people.

Little did he know, that documenting what was happening at this rally would result in a feature-length documentary film of an historical social movement five years later - The Bentley Effect. 

The project has been 100 per cent funded though crowdfunding and philanthropy, raising $80,000 so far. 

A budget Shoebridge says "is very small for something of this size". 

Despite initial reservations, Shoebridge said they started a crowdfunding campaign and raised $50,000 quite quickly, which allowed them to make a start at piecing the film together. 

“This has been a very much community-driven project – made by the community, for the community.

“The lovely thing is that it kind of takes the power back to where it should be, which is with the people.”

The film will premiere at the 2016 Byron Bay Film Festival’s Closing Night Gala, on Saturday October 22 at the Byron Theatre, an opportunity Shoebridge and his team are very excited about. 

“We are absolutely thrilled and deeply honoured to be able to launch the film at this years festival."

According to the Byron Bay Film Festival’s website, the film will then screen at Lismore Star Court Theatre Cinema on October 29, and Nimbin Bush Theatre on November 4.

The Bentley Effect. Credit: RJ Poole

Prior to attending his first 'No CSG' rally, Shoebridge had read snippets of reports in the local newspaper about CSG mining, but it was not until he learned some facts from the rally that he understood the potential negative impact this mining technique could have on his community.

“That was enough for me to say 'wow, this is a big issue',” he said.

Shoebridge had noticed that no one was filming at this first rally, so he grabbed his camera out of his car and started to document the day’s happenings. He knew at that point he was “getting some really valuable footage”. 

“On that day, I saw there was a big showdown looming.” 

Shoebridge was right. What happened over the next couple of years ended up becoming a huge social movement and an historic showdown at a local farming property in Bentley, outside Lismore – one known as the Bentley Blockade. 

Documenting the events that proceeded over the next five years, Shoebridge “wanted to bare witness with [his] camera”.

Brendan Shoebridge filming at Bentley. Credit: RJ Poole

According to The Bentley Effect website, the film tells the story of this historical social movement through the perspective of the protesters.

"When the Northern Rivers community found their home being threatened by gasfield industrialisation, a critical mass of citizens from all walks of life responded to the call.

"Their deep love of the land led to a massive social movement and a historic showdown in Bentley...What happened in this once peaceful valley has now become the stuff of legend and is reverberating around the globe.

"Told through the eyes of the 'Protectors' over a five-year period and intercut with fresh insight from some of the world’s leading social commentators, this feature documentary captures and celebrates what is described as the non-violent 'Eureka Stockade' of our time."

The Bentley Blockade ended in 2014, following the suspension of mining company Metgasco's exploration license due to what the state government labelled a failure to "undertake genuine and effective consultation with the community as required". 

At this time Shoebridge started to sift through the 42 terabytes of footage and began to piece together the "extraordinary tale of a community that defied the gas juggernaut" into the documentary that is The Bentley Effect. 

You can see the film premiere at the Byron Bay Film Festival by purchasing tickets here, watch the full teaser here, and donate to the film here.