Laurie Bullock, Inverell Times
CHRIS Rohrlach, the man who opened Inverell’s first legal brothel, said he believes such a business could succeed in Inverell with the right approach.
First Choice Wyndham Street, the brothel he built and opened with another Bundarra farmer Danny Poulsen, closed in 2007 after a short life.On Sunday night the movie filmed in Inverell and Bundarra about Chris, his family and brothel venture was shown at the Bundarra School of Arts.
Following the screening Mr Rohrlach spoke about the experience and said there was a market for a local brothel but they had not been the right people to operate it.The two farmers had put a manager in to run the brothel when they went back to working on their farms full-time, but the business was soon in trouble and closed.
During the movie one scene showed Chris discussing a conversation he had had where he was told he had to treat sex workers at the brothel like animals.The movie focuses mostly on the story of Chris caring for his wife Rachel, who was left a quadriplegic after a stroke.
Director Safina Uberoi told The Inverell Times she had found it difficult and confronting to film a movie that featured a brothel but said Chris and Rachel’s story was wonderful and deeply moving.Ms Uberoi said she enjoyed the Bundarra screening of her movie.“I’ve never been with an audience that got all the jokes,” she said.
“And this was an audience that understood the grief as well.”A Good Man has been shown overseas but a planned screening on ABC television could be put on hold with interest being shown to take the movie to country town cinemas. There has been interest shown from groups who care for people with disabilities to have screenings of the movie.
It took more than a year to film with 140 hours shot and Ms Uberoi said they returned several times during the time.“It was very taxing for the family but they were very patient with us and we ended up with a great friendship,” she said.
Read the review here.
Kathy Marks, The Independent
Mounting debt, falling produce prices and a crippling drought are just some of the problems facing Australian farmers. However, few choose the route of Chris Rohrlach, a sheep farmer who branched out by opening a brothel in his small country town. It seemed a good idea: Inverell, in northern New South Wales, had never had an establishment of that kind – not a legal one, anyway. Mr Rohrlach and his business partner, Danny Poulsen, consulted their wives, who gave their blessing with the proviso that “any funny business with the girls and you’re out the door”.
But the men quickly ran into opposition. Inverell is in a conservative Christian heartland. The pair discovered that mustering cattle and shearing sheep did not equip them to manage a brothel. And they could not attract suitable staff to their venue, First Choice Stress Relief, since prostitutes were flocking to booming mining towns in other parts of Australia.
Their story is told in a new documentary, A Good Man, to be screened at the Sydney Film Festival next month. The director, Safina Uberoi, said it was an irresistible subject. “They [the Rohrlachs] were having a baby and opening a brothel at the same time. You’ve got to ask, can a good father and a loving husband be a successful pimp?” Chris Rohrlach is the “good man” of the title. Seventeen years ago, his pregnant girlfriend, Rachel, had a stroke that left her quadriplegic. She gave birth to a healthy boy and Mr Rohrlach married her and has looked after them both, spurning the option of full-time residential care for his wife.
It was when a second baby was due that he realised he had to find a way to supplement his income. Over “quite a few beers”, he and Mr Poulsen, a fellow farmer, hit on the brothel idea. “We were looking to diversify and it seemed a good proposition,” he said. “It was quite legal and unlike farming, not dependent on the climate.”
He was unprepared, though, for the local opposition. Protest meetings were held, and The Inverell Times ran headlines such as “Moral decay” and “Brothel will defile town”. The families involved were ostracised. “I was starting to think I was the devil incarnate,” Mr Rohrlach said. “Our names were all over the paper with ‘brothel’ written next to them, which was hard to take.”We also had a lot of support, with people saying there’s a need for it in the community, and it’s better the men pay for it than run down Girl Guides.”
After a lengthy battle, he and Mr Poulsen won planning permission. The brothel, built from scratch, was “very nice, quite flash”, with polished timber floors, a solid pine reception desk and four “working rooms”, one with a spa, another with mirrored walls and ceiling. But they “simply couldn’t attract the right kind of staff”.
“We had some really nice older ladies and there was a big demand for them,” Mr Rohrlach said. “But we couldn’t attract enough young, attractive women to make the business a success.” He was unsuited to the work. He hated the late hours, and felt uncomfortable around the staff and customers. Less than a year after it opened, First Choice Stress Relief closed. Mr Rohrlach lost $150,000 (£75,000). “It was definitely an experience, it was an education, and I’ll be able to tell the grandchildren I used to own a brothel,” he said. “But from a financial perspective, it was a spectacular failure.”Mr Rohrlach, who has resumed farming, hopes the documentary is not screened in Inverell.
Read the review here.
After garnering awards and acclaim for her debut documentary My Mother India, Australian filmmaker SAFINA UBEROI tackles a truly sensitive subject with the sure-to-polarise A GOOD MAN.
“I really wanted to make a small but meaningful story,” says Safina Uberoi. “I couldn’t believe that I found this one, because it’s just a beautiful, beautiful, and very inspiring story.” That inspiring story also happens to be a very strange and surprising one.
Chris Rohrlach, the titular chap of the title, is a straight-up Aussie bloke. He’s a grazier from the northern NSW town of Inverell, and runs his life by simple rules and philosophies. That life, however, is more than a little complicated. Fourteen years ago, Chris’ pregnant girlfriend, Rachel, suffered a massive stroke, which left her a quadriplegic with extreme neurological impairment. Not only did she and Chris marry and have their child, but they now have another baby. Despite a strong support network and a town that is willing to help out wherever they can, life is tough on the land, and the Rohrlach family find themselves struggling. Their solution? The Rohrlach clan collectively decides to diversify into small business…by opening Inverell’s first legal brothel. This is an extraordinary story of love, commitment, the uniquely Australian culture of country people, and a resilience that seems to know no bounds.
“My brother actually knew these people,” Uberoi says of how she came to find this extraordinary subject matter. “He’d been telling me about them for years, but I paid no attention to him. You know, he’s my brother! Finally, he said, ‘Look, come down and meet them.’ I met them and I just thought that they were so extraordinary. You think you’re going to meet a desert farmer with a crippled wife, and that it’s going to be miserable. But it’s not; they’re full of light and life and joy. Chris has done so much, and he just does it so lightly. Everybody joins in: his parents, her parents, carers, local people, and their own son. This was a terrific story.”
Setting up a brothel in Inverell is not easy: the community protested loudly and vociferously, and Rohrlach and his principal financial partner (a Danish dairy farmer) set about actually building the brothel themselves, from the ground up, using rough hewn timber from the local area. “It was filmed for a year,” Uberoi says of the process. “We didn’t film every day for a year, but we went down there six or seven times. Chris and Rachel actually had a second child during that time. So Chris was juggling a baby, a crippled wife, and he was building a brothel. We’d go there, and we’d just pitch in. You’re not just a filmmaker, because you can’t be. It’s such a deeply, profoundly moving and disturbing human situation. We just became part of it, and every now and then we’d go, ‘Oh God, we’ve got to film something’.”
“We’d go there, and we’d just pitch in. You’re not just a filmmaker, because you can’t be. It’s such a deeply, profoundly moving and disturbing human situation.”
Though some may see the film’s title – A Good Man – as an ironic label because of the fact that Rohrlach is involved in a socially frowned upon activity (namely, sex for profit), Uberoi describes this complicated individual with nothing but warmth and positivity. “There’s a kind of moral and biblical reference because, you know, he’s made the ultimate sacrifice, for love,” she says of the title. “He’s looked after a woman for fourteen years who’s like a six-month-old baby who can never grow up. That’s what it’s like. She can’t move her arms and legs; she can’t move her bowels. She can’t speak. So he does everything for her.”
Uberoi chose to tell this story not on the good graces of the traditional Australian film funding system…though that had nothing to do with them blocking her potentially divisive material. “We couldn’t be bothered waiting around for the funding bodies,” she says. “There’s a baby being born, there’s a brothel being built. You have to wait six months here; they’re saying yes, but for six months, there’s no money.” In response, Uberoi looked a little closer to home for financial backing. The major investor was Uberoi’s husband, Himman Dhamija, a highly successful cinematographer in India who has worked on some of that country’s biggest Bollywood films (Chandni Chowk To China, Heyy Baby). “He’s really big now,” Uberoi smiles of her Australian based husband who shot her first documentary My Mother India. “He’s up to his seventh mega-feature.”
Though dealing with all manner of issues – the sex industry; love and relationships for the physically and mentally handicapped; the difficulties of living on the land in Australia; conservatism in this country’s heartland – Safina Uberoi ultimately sees A Good Man as a film that hopefully mixes the very simple with the incredibly complex. “It’s about family,” she says. “It’s a film about love. It’s a film about the meaning of life…not that I didn’t want to take on too much or anything!”
Read the review here.
Julie Rigg-ABC Movietime
One film that proved unexpectedly hilarious as well as touching was A Good Man, the story of Inverell grazier Chris Rorlach. Sixteen years ago he met red-headed Rachel at a Bachelors and Spinsters ball, and they became engaged. She was pregnant, but then had a devastating stroke. Chris resisted doctors’ advice to abort the baby when Rachel was in a coma; and slowly she recovered and gave birth to their son. Then Chris brought his quadriplegic wife home to care for, with the baby.
Roll on fifteen years, Chris and Rachel have a new baby and the long drought is slowly eating up Chris’s reserves. So he talks Rachel and their best friends into a new venture: they open a brothel.
Safina Uberoi is the film-maker, and her documentary presented her with some unusual moral dilemmas — including a stint filling in as a receptionist at the brothel.
A Good Man became a feature-length documentary thanks to the Adelaide Film Festival’s investment fund: an hour long television version will screen on the ABC in the future. But who knows, it could well turn up in a cinema near you. It would be a great film for country cinemas particularly.
Read the review here.
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