He has a solid and tangible presence in Forbes, from a statue and exhibitions in a museum and information centre to his gravestone in the cemetery, but tomorrow night Forbes will be the first place in the world to see the story of one of the most wanted men in Australian outlaw history come to life on screen. “Many attempts have been made to tell
Ben Hall’s story, but it is a hard nut to crack,” Matthew Holmes, director of The Legend of Ben Hall told The Forbes Phoenix.
“His life story is very unconventional and it would not work if told in a conventional manner. I was in the fortunate position to be able to make the film as I wanted it to be. I did not want to portray him as a good or a bad guy, but leave it to the audience to decide.” Matthew said he had always loved stories of people in the landscape, in an environment untouched and pure. “Ben Hall is such a fascinating character and his story is so unique. He is very different to other outlaws as he did not do it for money or power as such, but had more personal reasons – a broken heart after his wife left him.”
Matthew said though he did not see Ben Hall as an Australian Robin Hood. “That title has been grafted onto him incorrectly, although he was very decent and compassionate at times.” While some isolated scenes were filmed around Forbes, the majority was shot in regional Victoria. “The Forbes environment has been modernised too much and does not look like the time of Ben Hall any more.” Ben Hall (1837 – 1865) roamed an area from Bathurst to Forbes, south to Gundagai and east to Goulburn, leading the most notorious gang in Australia’s colonial past which included John Gilbert, John Dunn, John O’Meally and John Vane.
While viewers would not recognise any local landmarks, Matthew said they had a lot of support right from the start from Forbes, which was why the town was chosen for the world premiere. “Forbes is the heart of Ben Hall country. The Forbes audience can expect to see a tale told as faithfully as possible. I hope you will embrace the film.” Tomorrow night will be even more special as the audience will be able to meet the director and the actors.
The Legend of Ben Hall will be released in cinemas nationally on 1st December. Purchase tickets at https://www.stickytickets.com.au/44586. The film is rated M. Showground gates open at 6.30pm and screening
By Maggi Barnard