Thousands see Blue Mountains bushfire documentary

It didn’t feature a single Hollywood star and its budget would have made most indie films seem like blockbusters in comparison, but audiences flocked to a new Blue Mountains film at Katoomba’s Edge Cinema on Sunday.

About 2000 people attended five screenings of a documentary about the 1957 Blue Mountains bushfires which destroyed more than 100 homes in one of the state’s hottest summers.

“It’s said that in fiction there are only really two types of stories: a stranger comes to town and a hero goes on a journey,” said Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute research manager Peter Shadie at the film’s world premiere.

“Today is not about fiction but it’s a story that combines both those elements — the unwelcome arrival of a stranger in the form of fire and the heroic journey that some people undertook as a result of that incident.”

Many of those heroic people featured in the film — well-known local faces like Tom Colless, Trish Hogan and Mick Le Breton — attended Sunday’s VIP screening. Their firsthand accounts of the Leura fire which destroyed about 170 homes made for compelling viewing.

It also made today’s Blue Mountains residents think about their own bushfire preparedness  — a key goal of the Fire Stories - A Lesson in Time documentary.

Rural Fire Service staff and other agencies like the National Parks and Wildlife Service were inundated with inquiries following the screenings, with residents taking home Fire Stories booklets and bushfire plans.

“I hope the community will become aware of the need for personal resilience, of the need to have a plan in the case of a major bushfire coming through,” Blue Mountains Rural Fire Service district manager David Jones said after the screening.

Response to the Laura Zusters-directed documentary was so strong discussions are already underway about future screenings at The Edge. The film will also be made available on the Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute website in the near future.

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