UTS alumnus wins National Trust Heritage Award

UTS alumnus wins National Trust Heritage Award

16 June 2014

A serendipitous moment at work led UTS alumnus Russell Kilbey (Grad Dip Media Arts and Production, 2004) to the adventure of a lifetime – "with a bunch of blokes in hats who treated him like an equal even though he fell off his horse a bit" – and a prestigious accolade at the 20th Annual National Trust Heritage Awards for the resulting documentary, The Man from Coxs River.

This remarkable, independently distributed documentary film tells the story of Luke Carlon and his dangerous and difficult attempt to save a herd of wild brumbies in the Burragorang Valley, a restricted, rugged water catchment area largely accessible only on horseback. Luke's sister – a work colleague of Russell's – pointed out a spot on a map called Wild Dog Mountains and delivered the idea for the documentary. "It's beautiful country but it might be a bit dangerous," she said. "Can you ride a horse?"

Russell and his fellow producer Amy Scully and their crew endured intrepid and often extreme conditions – cyclones, floods and heatwaves – to document the difficult journey, where the fiercely independent horseman and a National Parks feral animal control ranger must put aside past differences and work together to bring the horses in and avoid the brutality, and public outcry, of an aerial cull.

The powerful story is moving audiences nationally as Russell and Amy travel the country for screenings in independent – and fittingly, often heritage listed – theatres following its launch in Sydney on 25 March this year.

Russell was presented with the prestigious heritage award at a ceremony at Doltone House in Sydney on 14 May. "Buildings are made of bricks and mortar but the human world is made of stories," he said, citing that the award was timely recognition of the role of filmmaking in preserving Australia's heritage. "We have found the engagement from local communities remarkable," he said.

Russell has fond memories of his studies and work at UTS. "I loved my time at UTS," said Russell. "Jenny Thornleigh's unit on Issues in Documentary really turned me on to the whole genre." Russell has continued his association with UTS, collaborating with Dr Greg Ferris in Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences on the graphics and design aspects of the documentary. He's also taught a world-first course in Citizen Journalism (Blogging and Podcasting) for UTS:INSEARCH.

More information about The Man from Coxs River and details of planned screenings is available at the film's website.