Whatever Happened to Brenda Hean

From: $6.99

Genre: Documentary – Eco Politics

DVD: Available Now

Format: DVD

Rating: MA 15+ – Strong coarse language

Run Time: 89 minutes

Languages: English

Director: Scott Millwood


SKU: AF6241 Categories: , , ,

Whatever Happened to Brenda Hean?

Part detective story, part confession, part black comedy, Whatever Happened To Brenda Hean is a rare work of investigation that will keep you guessing until the very last moment.

From the award-winning makers of Wildness comes a story of murder and political intrigue; a mystery so intertwined with the environment that it is a parable for our times.

In 1972, environmental activist Brenda Hean’s Tiger Moth plane disappeared while en route to Canberra, where she planned to petition the prime minister to save Tasmania’s wild and beautiful Lake Pedder from inundation by a massive hydroelectricity scheme.

The battle for the lake was lost, neither the plane nor its passengers were ever found and, despite evidence suggesting sabotage, a public enquiry was never conducted. It spawned a legion of conspiracy theories that refused to die. Decades later, documentary filmmaker Scott Millwood offered a $100,000 reward for information that would lead to an answer to the mystery.

On a journey through his homeland, we join conservationists, journalists, pilots, clairvoyants and eyewitnesses in uncovering the story of a woman whose environmental values still resonate. Yet what begins as a search for truth becomes a poetic reverie into landscape, uncovering the heart of darkness of Tasmania, while offering the possibility of reconciliation with our environment.

Accident or foul play, conspiracy or misadventure, whatever happened to Brenda Hean?

Whatever Happened to Brenda Hean – Movie Trailer


Study Guide

Published Reviews

At the Movies, Margaret Pomeranz
The mysterious circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Tasmanian environmental activist Brenda Hean in 1972 is the subject of a new documentary WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BRENDA HEAN?, by lawyer turned filmmaker Scott Millwood.

Millwood posted a $100,000 reward for anyone with information leading to the discovery of the plane in which Hean and pilot Max Price left Tasmania for Canberra to lobby parliamentarians to save Lake Pedder. The lake was about to disappear under a new hydro-electric scheme.

Millwood chases many leads and follows up a number of theories. Was the plane sabotaged to get rid of the activist? Or was Max Price the target?

This totally engrossing film actually explores more than just the theories surrounding the disappearance. It delves into the psyche of our island state, and the undercurrent of violence that permeated the society at that time. Even today one of the signs on a farm that Millwood visits says “Trespassers will be shot not prosecuted”.

Millwood, for some unknown reason, insists on exposing the mechanics of his filmmaking, with shots of interview set-ups, microphone and light stands are lovingly captured, interviewees are shown when they obviously believe what they’re saying will not be included.

All this to little point and a great deal of distraction when what the film is exploring is so fascinating and sad. But as Richard Flanagan says at the end of the film, “In the end the myth is more powerful than whatever the truth is”, what they – Hean and Price – stood for, endures and becomes the great truth of their times.
Read the full review here

Julina Shaw, Filmink
Despite being a sexagenarian, a time when many happily retreat into cotton wool, Tasmanian Brenda Hean was stirred into becoming an eco-warrior when faced with the potential destruction of her local Lake Pedder. Her activism in the early seventies – though nourished by Christian faith – was unfettered to either feminism or the seminal environmentalist movement. With her baffling disappearance in 1972, a story of vast moral proportions took on a morbidly curious edge – and the mystery has lingered ever since. Thirty five years later, director Scott Millwood returns to the scene of the crime, and unlocks not only disturbing resonances with the current political climate, but also a truly haunting narrative.

By reconstituting the story as a murder mystery, and pushing himself headlong into the core of the film, Millwood (the brains behind the AFI-winning doco Wildness) ushers an historical tale into the volatile present, where eco-consciousness is fashionably on the ascendancy. The only sticking point is that offering a $100,000 cash reward for a definitive solution to the Hean mystery will draw immediate cynicism from some viewers – such a hefty cash prize could potentially inspire all sorts of blue bullshit, but the filmmakers insist that there were no hoax calls.

Employing Super 8mm film to capture the ghosts of the past is a winning stylistic choice, as is the decision to use a multi-cam approach to create fractured, postmodern and startling filmic textures. By striking up such an absorbing who dunnit, Millwood ensures that we are effortlessly ushered through the key ethical issues at the heart of deforestation and climate change – topical grist indeed.

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