julie’s redbacks

Last week the Franco-Australian film The Tree had its Aussie premiere at the Sydney Film Festival. (I could just as easily have described it as an Australian-French film, but I like any excuse to use the word “Franco” in context.) I attended the screening at the State Theatre, which featured an introduction and a Q&A with the film’s director, Julie Bertucelli.

I thought it was a fine film; my review can be found on my other page. Set in rural Queensland, it’s the story of a family coping with grief, and their special relationship with the massive Moreton Bay fig tree in their yard. Though Bertucelli is French (and star Charlotte Gainsbourg is French and English) I found it a very Aussie film not only in its setting, but in the way its characters interact with each other and the quasi-mystical force of nature represented by the tree.

During her speech, Bertucelli highlighted the film’s dual citizenship. She said when she was at Cannes, where The Tree had the honor of closing the festival a couple of weeks before, a lot of people assumed her film was Australian and so was she. And being here in Sydney it was the opposite — people took it for granted that the film was French like her.

In her pleasant, low-key way, she went on to say she started to feel Australian while spending a year here in production. She offered as evidence the fact that she wore the same pair of Redbacks for that entire year, and continued to do so after wrapping the film. She even wanted to wear them that evening but thought it was slightly too formal an occasion.

OK, maybe it was an effort to ingratiate herself to a packed house full of Aussies. But in general she seemed very sweet and down to earth (perhaps more reasons to be mistaken for an Aussie despite her accent). That always goes a long way with me in the film business, and it put me in a good frame of mind before the film rolled.

Anyway — great choice of footwear, Julie. Especially for a gruelling year of film production in Queensland. If you don’t know, Redbacks are one of the most popular Australian brands of work boots and shoes. They’re the main rival to the classic Blundstone; like Blundstone they specialize in pull-on safety boots. These comfortable boots, often steel-toed, with the distinctive “pulling-on” straps, are a purely Australian phenomenon — Australia’s answer to Doc Martens, but not yet diluted by mass-marketing to fashion-conscious kids — and universally worn by workers of all kinds. Everywhere you go, you see truck drivers and tradesmen proudly the sporting same Aussie work uniform: cargo shorts, fluorescent safety shirt or vest, sunnies, and pull-on boots. Like Aussies, the boots are tough, practical, unpretentious, and stylish in their own way.

At the organic produce warehouse where I worked, I got to know a kid from India who’d been here for three months (about the same time as me). He was about five feet tall, a nerdy-looking engineering student with glasses. But he wore Blundstones to work, and that made him absolutely Aussie.

Redbacks are proudly Australian-owned and made, which is no longer the case with Blundstone. They are, of course, named after the poisonous spider which is a kind of wicked alternate national mascot — seen everywhere here in art, crafts, design, and marketing of all kinds (as covered in this arachnophobically-induced post.) I myself have a pair of Redback chef clogs. They’re as comfortable as could be, and dare I say kind of hip. If I was going to spend a year filming a movie in the Queensland countryside, I’d probably stick with my Redbacks too.

It was a small thing for her to mention her Redbacks, but as someone who’s lived in Australia for even less than the year she spent here, it stood out for me. I thought it was cool of her to admit she identifies with that part of Australiana. It made me inclined to like her and her film that much more.

Visit Redback Boots’ website — not only to browse through their great selection of boots and shoes, but to check out the funny little animated spider that follows the cursor around on the home page.

1 comment so far

  1. […] in their yard and their struggle to keep it from being cut down. (My review is on my other page; my last entry here is about French director Julie Bertucelli’s affection for Australia and her Redback […]

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