By documenting a specific microcosm of a farming family on Australia’s south- east coast, OYSTER presents its audience with a story, a landscape, an environment and characters who face practical, ethical and personal decisions about things that matter to them – feeding their family, getting the boys to school, running the farm, looking after the lake, keeping their crop of oysters healthy and figuring out whether harvesting new crops will protect their livelihood.
This local story goes to the heart of matters of global urgency – climate, sustainability, farming, the health, livelihood and education of rural communities, and the challenges and uncertainties that come with farming a luxury product.
Observational in style, OYSTER stands back to watch and witness. The film’s director Kim Beamish likes to sit as close to his characters as he can so as to become really intimate with the world they are experiencing. This intimacy invites the audience in, as if they are almost becoming a character too, a part of what is going on, and a part of the character’s experience.
Dom and Pip Boyton are the main characters of OYSTER. Dom and Kim Beamish used to play together as boys, creating a life long rapport and a level of intimacy and trust which gives personal colour to the film and adds to the audience’s involvement in the story.
OYSTER will not seek to tell the audience what to think about the ethics, morality or politics of the decisions that face Dom and Pip Boyton but, rather, will present their story. It is a story that shows what is happening for Dom and Pip, and their fellow farmers and community. The story leaves it to the audience to make their own decisions.
OYSTER depicts the changes of rhythm as characters shift space and pace. The noise and mundane routine of tasks like running the oyster through 'cling clang' the grader is forgotten as Dom, Pip and the boys settle in at home to a meal. Later, exhausted, Dom is asleep on the couch, the television streaming cable, as Pip plays Candycrush and updates her Facebook account.
When Dom takes the punt out on the water, the mood shifts again, to the vibrant colours in the wide open spaces of the lake and the sky. Pre-dawn, sunrise, the heat of noon, sunset, midnight – the oyster farmer harvests by the rhythm of the tide.
The good times build up with a slower pace: clean water, good sales, family time, right decisions. Then the noise comes, the loud voices, the fast pace that breaks the good times down: bad decisions, storms, disease taking hold, family tension.
This build up and break down – both visual and aural – is like the waves when their rhythm is building. It’s as if we are awaiting that perfect wave at the back of the set. Will it be good or bad?