The Triangle Wars

From: $24.00

Genre: Documentary – Humanities

DVD: Available Now

Format: DVD

Rating: M – Infrequent coarse language

Run Time: 90 minutes

Languages: English

Director: Rosie Jones

Featuring: The ‘Unchain St Kilda’ group & Serge Thomann, Former Mayor Dick Gross, Sydney Property Developer Steve McMillan, and The City of Port Phillip Council

SKU: AF9599 Categories: , , ,

They saved paradise… including the parking lot!

An inspirational story for our times, The Triangle Wars is the story of the battle being waged between local government, big business and the community over the development of a tiny sliver of crown land on the foreshore of St Kilda. A microcosm of a much bigger story about power, values, compromise and transparency, The Triangle Wars tells the story through three men at the heart of the conflict: an eccentric politician, a celebrity photographer and a high-powered property developer.

Combining a study of democracy in progress with a community’s impassioned struggle against an institutional behemoth, The Triangle Wars highlights the lengths the community will go when they believe their democratic rights are being eroded. It is a battle which will redefine a vital Australian community.

The Triangle Wars – Movie Trailer


Study Guide

Press Kit

Published Reviews

Chris Ryan, 3AW – Fairfax Media
…it has all the drama and suspense of a top feature film. This is about real rats in real ranks. Ours! ‘Triangle Wars’ is not to be missed.”

Tanya Tribuzio – AFI Blog
It’s a great local Melbourne story, exposing the questionable antics of local council governments and demonstrating how the power of the people can prevail…’The Triangle Wars’ is a great watch!

David Griffiths – Buzz Magazine
An inspirational ‘David & Goliath’ story of our times…

…this is a very important film indeed, this is the film that shows that ‘people power’ still has some worth in modern society…

…you even find yourself barracking for the people of St Kilda in the same way you supported The Kerrigans in ‘The Castle’…this is a doco that every Australian must see

The Chop Buster Blog
This film is a heartening display of the grass-roots democratic process: if the people really really REALLY don’t want it, you can’t force them to have it.

Carmine Pascuzzi – Media Search
The Triangle Wars’ is a riveting exposition of sweeping social issues and contemporary Australian politics…

Western in our own backyard – PORT PHILLIP LEADER Sally Spalding
DOCUMENTARY The Triangle Wars has all the elements of a true Western.

In the tradition of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, the three major protagonists fight it out in their respective corrals, creating their own adversarial triangle. Under Rosie Jones’ direction, the goodies are the Unchain St Kilda group led by Serge Thomann. The $300 million developer is the baddy Steve McMillan. And the ugly is the incumbent councillor and sheriff, former mayor Dick Gross, who supports the new plan for the now infamous parcel of land known as the triangle.

As Thomann, the French cowboy rides into town, he manages to win the shootout, leaving the political carcasses of the bad and the ugly on the floor of the council chamber. The Baddy manages to escape with a pocketful of cash, as tumbleweeds continue to blow over the wind-swept site. Council paid McMillan off, to get out of the deal. So he gets $5 million for doing nothing. But he shows he doesn’t really understand the passion of local government when he describes the goodies as ‘just a bunch of old people, they are old and they have got nothing else to do in their lives. They are just sitting there drinking lattes, waiting for the next step.”

The film was a four-year project for Jones, who said she worked within a minuscule budget to try to show all sides fairly. Although there are no big-hearted whores (we do catch a glimpse of Greeves St though), there is a lot of drinking at the saloon bar, or St Kilda’s version, the faithful Dog’s Bar, where the activists are called to arms. Gross, who still hasn’t seen the film, is candid. “Yes I admit, I’ve got emotional problems,” he says. “I’m a show-off and a political animal.” But whether Gross made an error in judgment or not, the film shows that council is now the poorer for losing him.

There are not enough candid and colourful characters in today’s group of “Magnificent Seven”. Cr Thomann prophetically speaks to camera as the Unchain group is registered with Consumer Affairs in Exhibition St, Melbourne. “Now we are incorporated, the fight begins,” he says. Of course, it’s a shootout to the end for Gross. And the film highlights his journey after the 2008 council elections sympathetically.Most people lack the honesty Gross offers. “Quite clearly, the evidence is the community did not accept out arguments and we got it wrong,” he says.

But good Westerns usually have a sequel, so whether Port Phillip is dealing with The Magnificent Seven , or The Wild Bunch in 2012 it’s worth noting that like Westerns, council elections are never boring.

Film reignites triangle stoush – SYDNEY MORNING HERALD Miki Perkins
Perhaps developer Stephen McMillan was hoping the uproar over his proposed redevelopment of the St Kilda triangle would eventually fizzle out.

“The people who are opposed to it are quite old … quite old … they’ve got nothing better to do with their lives, so they’re probably just sitting there, drinking their lattes and waiting for the next step.”

But Mr McMillan seriously underestimated his opponents. A new fly-on-the-wall documentary that traces the battle over the triangle — one of Melbourne’s most controversial development proposals.

Directed by long-time St Kilda resident and filmmaker Rosie Jones, The Triangle Wars documents a four-year battle that began when Port Phillip Council decided to redevelop the foreshore around the Palais Theatre into a vast complex comprising a shopping mall, a 70-room hotel, bars, a gym and a multi-screen cinema. The fallout led to most of the councillors being defeated at the next election and a series of Ombudsman investigations and set a new benchmark for resident protest groups.

Celebrity endorsement gave the protest a whiff of rock star glamour, with Bruce Springsteen and the Rolling Stones pledging $5000 each to the fight, and actor Rachel Griffiths and her mother, Anna, leading the marches. Jones became interested in the triangle when she went to a public meeting where Mr McMillan, a Citta Group director, outlined his proposal.

That occasion was peaceful, but the next public meeting descended into chaos and tearful residents voiced their disapproval of the plans. Jones said the low-budget film tried to give a voice to all three “elements” in the triangle — the council, the residents and the developers.

“I hope that people come out of the film feeling inspired; they’ll feel that it is worth standing up and being counted, that it is possible to change decisions that seem irreversible and not only in terms of urban planning but all sorts of things.”

Former mayor and councillor Dick Gross gives the audience a disarmingly frank account of his handling of the affair, which led to his overthrow as a councillor. “I’ve got emotional problems which I massage by being a councillor … I forgot that part of the deal was people might not actually like your decisions,” Mr Gross said. Jones said Unchain St Kilda was fortunate to have a number of architects, a former councillor and a public relations expert all volunteering their time.

“It was an alignment of the stars if you like, in that the people who came together in that core group were very clever and able people.” The council has just begun a new series of community consultations about the triangle site. Jones’s previous films include Walking with Will Self, about the English writer who became obsessed with walking, and West-all 66, a suburban UFO mystery about a mysterious sighting in the sky near Clayton.

ST KILDA NEWS By Alushka Rajaram
…the film, which premiered at the Melbourne International Film Festival, was perhaps the most anticipated Australian venture. It takes a fly on the wall look at the battle between community group unChain St. Kilda and the then council of the City of Port Phillip during the infamous planning stage to redevelop the St.Kilda foreshore that started in 2007 and came to a cataclysmic end in 2009.

Perhaps the luckiest documentary makers of all time, those involved with The Triangle Wars managed to capture a story of political betrayal, bizarre work place antics, community spirit and the resilience of the French without having to put pen to paper. In addition, celebrities such as Rachel Griffiths and Dave Hughes, who make few minute appearances, add glitz and glamour to an otherwise highly politicized story.

Although the director, Rosie Jones, attempts to present an unbiased picture of the proceedings, the film ultimately finds a protagonist in now Councilor Serge Thomman and his unChain St.Kilda associates and an antagonist in former Councilor Dick Gross and some of his fellow council members. Also included in the bad guys corner is developer Stephen McMillan, Managing Director of Citta Property Group, who, in the film, epitomizes any evil storybook villain with dark circles under his eyes and a high-pitched cackle. In this respect, one who values true balance would have to worry about how accurate the film could be in presenting a holistic view of the issue given its perceived leanings.

Where the film does up the ante however, is in its use of music. Throughout much of the film, music that connotes a circus type feel adds to the chaotic nature of film and hones in on Luna Park, which is both a landmark of St. Kilda and a venture by Carlo Cattani, the initial architect behind redeveloping St. Kilda’s foreshore. In addition, the closing number of the film, ‘From St. Kilda to Kings Cross’ by Paul Kelly brings together an idea of St. Kilda that we get brief glimpses of between the highly upper middle class battle – that of the strugglers and the artists, the bohemia that many still feel reflects the ‘true St. Kilda’.

However, despite certain discrepancies that one might have with the film, it comes together nicely when you consider the plight of independent filmmakers in Australia and female ones at that.

The film is highly recommended to all St. Kilda residents and those who enjoy their political battles.

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