TALKING MOVIES: Avoca Beach Picture Theatre Film Group leader Elaine Odgers Norling watches about 200 films each year. Photo: Elaine Odgers Norling
TALKING MOVIES: Avoca Beach Picture Theatre Film Group leader Elaine Odgers Norling watches about 200 films each year. Photo: Elaine Odgers Norling

Film group looks beyond the stars

SHE enters after the preview trailers, takes her seat - third row, centre - eases back and becomes one with the giant screen.

She is Copacabana's Elaine Odgers Norling, facilitator of the Avoca Beach Picture Theatre Film Group since 2005 and a film fan since the days of Bette Davis.

While she is more than happy to discuss films after she has seen them, she "refuses" to go in with preconceived ideas. That means no trailers, no reviews and, if she hasn't seen a film, she will excuse herself if you start talking about it.

"I want to go in with a blank mind and see where the team who made that film take me - the cinematography, the direction and the script," Elaine said.

How these various elements and the music score are melded together is something Elaine said had always fascinated her.

While good acting is important, unusually for a movie fan, Elaine has little interest in the actors themselves and what they may have done in the past. Rather, each movie is a piece of art in its own right.

"I've always been a visual person and what's more visual than a big screen?" the artist and award-winning photographer questioned.

She fondly remembers being introduced to "alternative" films through the Sydney University Film Society in the late 1950s, and in the late 1960s, before film festivals were the professional affairs they are today, working with the man now synonymous with Australian film critique David Stratton to choose films for the Sydney Film Festival.

"We had a 16mm projector and a group of friends sat together and we gave each film five minutes and if enough of us put up our hand, it would be retained," Elaine said.

Having retired to the Central Coast in 1999, it didn't take long before Elaine discovered her local cinema and was delighted at the range of non-blockbusters it showed.

She joined the film group and, before long, she was the facilitator and regularly watches 200 films per year.

She believes films have many purposes, whether it is like the recent Sense of an Ending or Things to Come, dealing with a slice of people's lives to which others can relate, painting history in Churchill, bringing issues to light, like Spotlight, or making us consider the future, like Ex Machina.

Her personal favourites include The Wizard of Oz, made in the year of her birth, 1939, and standing the test of time and, more recently, the intense French film The Wait, dealing with a woman's grief at losing her son and, on a lighter note, Australia's The Dressmaker, featuring the cinematography of Don McAlpine.

The Film Group itself is about 250 strong, with an average of 20 at each discussion, and everyone's ideas embraced. They see the first film of the day each Wednesday and Thursday (about 10am) and the $11 ticket includes a cuppa and a discussion.

Elaine said she hoped the group encouraged people to see beyond the entertainment factor and look more deeply into film, as well as introducing films and genres people may not otherwise have chosen to see.

Feedback, she said, included that the group had made the film more personal, allowed some to see a film from a different perspective and given single movie-goers the pleasure of discussing their experience.

A political activist all her life, marching for feminism, against the Vietnam War and protesting Australia's involvement in Iraq, Elaine said the important things to her beyond family and friends were "the sheer enjoyment I get working with community members to whatever end, and the joy of watching films and the discussion that comes from it".

It's all part of her deeper ethos of the need for community members to talk to each other and promote greater understanding.

If you are interested in joining the film group, call the theatre on 43821777 or contact Elaine at

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