Romancing the stone, from Cinderella to Waltzing Matilda : a documentary project exploring the opal and sapphire industries along the Tropic of Capricorn
Dai Vaughan has argued that every documentary is a do-it-yourself reality kit, a creative game which engages the auteur on a level of direct relevance with the world around us; a form of play in which the film maker juxtaposes the desire to rewrite history, and its impact on contemporary society, with the tensions created by extremes of landscape, of characterisation and of storytelling (1986, p. 175). The documentary makers of this work in progress have maintained that both the Queensland boulder opal found by a gold fossicker near Blackall in 1869 and the superb blue sapphire discovered by railway surveyors on the Western line in 1894 are very much a part of our cultural heritage in Capricornia. The nucleus of our film concerns the history and lifestyle of the people, the small independent miners, who over more than a century have fossicked for gemstones from Withersfield on the Central Highlands to Yaraka and Winton in the far west. The purpose of this paper, therefore, is to define the relationship between the social construction of these heritage icons as a truly regional cultural identity with a visual interpretation in documentary film, produced in a creative and educational mode.