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Oyster Farmer

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The movie Oyster Farmer was created around a river. The Hawkesbury River in New South Wales, Australia, to be precise. Writer/director Anna Reeves fell in love with it over countless weekend escapes on the shores of the upper river. For four years she researched a film about the river, spending time with the locals – an assortment of oyster farmers and eccentric loners.

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Years passed, and Reeves was working in London, missing Australia, when her husband suggested she write her movie about the river. She covered the walls of her home in photographs she had taken of the river, inspiring her to create a screenplay full of quirky humor, feisty women, and water. Oyster Farmer is her 'love letter to Australia'.

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'When I went up the river,' she explains, 'I kept seeing a movie, it has such an epic landscape. In the film, the river is like a character of its own, and the way the environment shapes the people who live in that environment is something I find quite fascinating.'

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Set on the shores of the Hawkesbury, around the town of Brooklyn (50km north of Sydney), Oyster Farmer is the story of a young man (Jack) who leaves the city to become an oyster farmer. It's about making the transition from the city to the small town, being a fish out of water, and learning what really matters.

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Much of the film was made in locations only accessible by river, often reached by 'tinnies' (small aluminum boats). 'It was so exhilarating to get into those little tinnies and whiz up the river,' says Reeves, 'experiencing that whole feeling of escapism which is also so cinematic. I knew it was something that would work well in a film.'

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In making the film, Reeves realized that the oyster farmer's way of life was under threat from encroaching real estate development, and she wanted to capture it before it was too late.

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Says Reeves, 'The way I chose to bring the story to audiences was to write a fish-out-of-water story about someone from Sydney who comes into the community and as that person discovers the community, so does the audience.

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'When the funding was finally in place, I rocked up to the pub on a Friday night – which is the best time to see everyone up there – and some of the people said I'd come too late, that “such and such had sold his oyster leases and given up the business”, so I think we made this film just in time.'

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Sometimes movies tell stories; sometimes they do more than that. Oyster Farmer is an entertaining voyage of discovery and a quirky romance. However, it is also a cultural snapshot, an attempt to preserve (on film, at least) a lifestyle that has passed from generation to generation, but may soon be extinguished. A snapshot of the people who live on the river and know it so intimately, in a way the incoming 'weekenders' will never do. Fiction, but with a grander goal. – Roshan McArthur

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  • MichaelC2B

    February 13, 2009

    Thanks for the beautiful review and pictures. Alex O’Loughlin is my favorite actor, and I love Oyster Farmer. This was Alex’s first movie, and he is outstanding. I have this and all of his other movies and TV shows on DVD. Alex is a brilliant talent with an incredible range, and I hope the Moonlight DVD sales and the viewer #s for Sci-Fi’s airing on Fridays at 9 pm EST will prompt someone to bring back this wonderful show that CBS cancelled for no apparent reason.
    Watching this charming movie made me want to live in that community.

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