Australian sport is under a bit of a cloud at present, what with drug rumours and tanking allegations. Now, a new local movie is set on taking it further backwards - but with the best and most uplifting of intentions.
Reverse Runner is written and directed by Jarrod Theodore and Lachlan Ryan, young Victorian filmmakers who have spent more than four years getting their first feature off the ground.
It's a story of sporting dreams, family tensions and the challenges of running 100 metres backwards. It has a cameo from Olympic athlete Steve Moneghetti, a special race call from Bruce McAvaney, and support from Hollywood director Stephen Herek.
It's showing in Geelong, Ararat and Horsham and the filmmakers plan to take it to city screens, and interstate.
It's a likeable comedy that combines classic sports movie conventions with good-natured gags that make the most of its rural setting. Its central character is a hapless country boy, Kid Campbell (Dan Cannon), who has had a dream since childhood of backwards glory. In the world of Alternate Athletics that the film depicts - with events such as chair-throwing and poison ball - the 100-metre reverse running is the elite category. Campbell has a nemesis, the swaggering, black-clad superstar SJ (Julian Shaw), but he also has support from surprising quarters.
Theodore and Ryan met at school in Colac, discovered a shared love of movies and started making short films together.
They did filmmaking courses in Melbourne, then gained experience working, mostly, as cinematographers.
Reverse Runner was going to be a short, based on an idea from Cannon who had heard about a novelty event at the Port Fairy Festival. Then Theodore and Ryan saw a featurette about the making of Reservoir Dogs in which Quentin Tarantino talked about how he turned his shorts into features.
''So we thought, 'why don't we just have a crack at making it feature length'. We were pretty young and naive, and thought it would be like making three shorts,'' Theodore says. ''But it's a completely different monster.''
They spent 4½ years making the film while they worked at other jobs. They funded it themselves, had help from their parents with catering and found plenty of support from people who were sympathetic to the story and their filmmaking ambitions.
When they approached Steve Moneghetti, he thought it was a practical joke, Theodore says, ''then he read the script and liked what we were trying to do''. He plays an enigmatic figure who has some important insights for Kid.
Moneghetti helped them get in touch with Bruce McAvaney, who can be heard calling the film's opening scene, a flashback to a legendary reverse running race. They modelled the script on his call of Cathy Freeman's Olympic 400-metres victory.
They had hoped they would find a distributor, but so far, they've had to release the film themselves. ''We're optimistic guys,'' Theodore says. ''Distributing it ourselves, we're learning more about how the industry works.''
Making the movie cost more than they expected, he says. ''But we're just young guys who are passionate about films - and what we learnt on Reverse Runner will help us make the next one.''
The story Local film uses backwards running as a way forward first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.