When Phillip Noyce first drove into the Wollombi Valley almost half a century ago, he recalled how he clattered over colonial history.
“Parts of the road were stone, built by chain-gang convict labour,” said the acclaimed film director and Wollombi vineyard owner.
Yet as he drove into Wollombi, Phillip Noyce was also heading deep into much older history. For thousands of years, Aboriginal groups gathered for ceremonies around Wollombi. In time, Mr Noyce’s eyes were opened to the Aboriginal culture in the valley, as he marvelled at rock art in caves.
“It’s like any art, to experience the sharing of someone’s soul,” said Mr Noyce. “It’s an emotional experience to see the original inhabitants of the area having left their message from the past for the future.”
Tonight in Wollombi, Phillip Noyce is sharing a piece of his own art that opened eyes around the world to the shocking treatment of Aboriginal people. His film, Rabbit-Proof Fence, is being screened as part of the village’s Flicks on the Green series. The director will also be participating in a question-and-answer session. Mr Noyce is looking forward to the film screening in Wollombi, whose name is derived from an Aboriginal word for ‘meeting place’.
“Any time is the right time to screen the film, just in recognition of the indigenous heritage,” he said.
Wollombi has been a meeting place for the extended Noyce family for many years. And the farm has allowed Phillip Noyce, along with his brothers Michael and Peter, to nurture another creative pursuit: wine-making. The director of Patriot Games and Salt reckons there are parallels between what happens on a film set and in a vineyard.
“Wine-making is like making movies, because serendipity is an important part of both, as is the hunch, as is the sun; it’s the luck of the sun, ” said Mr Noyce, adding that both required a lot of attention and love.
“We know the joy of drinking good wine, and there’s that same feeling of connection with audiences [in making a film]. The intoxication is not quite the same, but it’s still intoxicating.”