Hotel Coolgardie - showing at the Victoria Film Festival - takes place in middle-of-nowhere western Australia. It follows the story of two incoming “barmaid” backpackers, who have lost their travel money when their credit cards were stolen in Bali.

VFF Review: Hotel Coolgardie

Monday Magazine reviews this years must-see films at VFF

Andrea Peek

This is one of the best travel documentaries I have seen in years. It adds a different perspective to the usual travel documentary; humourous, nostalgic and dark.

Hotel Coolgardie takes place in middle-of-nowhere western Australia. It follows the story of two incoming “barmaid” backpackers, who lost their travel money when their credit cards were stolen in Bali. Steph and Lina have agreed to come to this one-pool town for three months to serve stubbies and Emu Export to the locals while fending off the wild. Wild meaning the local miners and well-meaning but female-deprived townsfolk.

I found myself rooting for these girls and remembering how naive I was when I was backpacking around the world and the troubling situations I got myself into and thankfully got myself out of.

The supporting subjects are characters themselves as we also try to decipher who can be trusted and who is trouble. The girls clash with their brash and insulting bar boss while making friends with some locals. However, the fight to keep the barrier up between friend and more than friend is constantly fought. Despite appearances Canman plays a fatherly figure that needs to watch out for the girls. Some broken hearted regulars, fueled by nothing but four-X of middy, share their fears and desires albeit sometimes in a scary way.

This film is a fascinating voyeur view of the growth of these wide-eyed young ladies navigating the culture of this mining town. Will the girls learn to trust their instincts while putting up with the patrons who are “rough as bags” that will “grow a leg” welcoming the new meat in town? These two protagonists’ polite upbringing flies in opposition to the misogynistic undercurrent of life in Coolgardie.

This is a real-life, fly-on-the-wall look into what it is like to live in a country very different from your own, make good and bad decisions, and learn some lessons the hard way. Perhaps learning a few lessons from these girls will save you from the same fate or remind you of a nostalgic road less traveled for a reason sometimes.

I felt like I had traveled back in time and I loved being along for the ride and letting the chips (or plates of mash) fall where they may.

The BC Premiere of Hotel Coolgardie is playing: Feb. 5th at 9 p.m. at Silvercity (3130 Tillicum Road).

 

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