A behind the scenes look at Levon J Polinelli’s Emu War: A Subtle Examination of the Sheer Caucasity of Colonialism

Reginald (Ethan Thomas) and Johnny (Davis Anderson) take a breather on the train back from Campion.

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If you don’t already know the story of Western Australia’s Great Emu War then buckle in. It’s one hell of a ride.

The Wikipedia entry reads like this: The Emu War, also known as the Great Emu War, was a nuisance wildlife management military operation undertaken in Australia over the later part of 1932 to address public concern over the number of emus said to be running amok in the Campion district of Western Australia. The unsuccessful attempts to curb the population of emus, a large flightless bird indigenous to Australia, employed soldiers armed with Lewis guns—leading the media to adopt the name “Emu War” when referring to the incident. While a number of the birds were killed, the emu population persisted and continued to cause crop destruction.

You can read the rest of the wild, almost unbelievable story here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emu_War

A story like this demands to be seen on the big screen, so it’s with great delight that Catface Productions recently announced its own feature film version of the film is currently in production across Perth. 

Written, directed and produced by Levon J Polinelli who will also edit the film, Emu War: A Subtle Examination of the Sheer Caucasity of Colonialism follows Reginald Fitzpatrick-Matheson (Ethan Thomas) who wants to follow in his father’s footsteps and serve his country; after enlisting on his eighteenth birthday, Reginald is thrust in to the one war Australia has lost forcing Fitzpatrick-Matheson to reckon with his colonial views.


“I’ve long wanted to tell the story of the emu war, but the actual events of it aren’t exactly narratively rich, so I could never quite work out what the angle was, or if it was a musical, a film, or a theatre piece,” says Polinelli.

“It all kinda hit me around the time of the horrific 2019 bushfires, plus the pandemic gave me the time I’d never had before to really think about it, and I realised there was a commonality – the hubris of colonialism. We were scratching our heads as to why the emu population had exploded after creating the wheatbelt, in effect a giant buffet that meant they had a constant food source, when the people who lived here for 80,000 years could’ve told us that was going to happen; then cut to a hundred years later and we’re still not listening to this vast and deep knowledge base on how best to manage and live with the country. We’re just bulldozing our way through thinking we know what’s best because it worked in England, and that’s when it hit me that this is the thematic playground I want to be mucking around in on this story.

“We’ve had an absolute blast shooting at amazing locations already like Perth Mess Hall, The Railway Museum, the streets of Fremantle and Ern Halliday Recreation Camp to recreate 1932 Perth, and we’ve got some even crazier stuff coming up around the metro area, as well as the outback. I’ve even conscripted my own mother in to making our army uniforms, so to say it’s a real family affair is an understatement!”

Shooting is taking place across weekends throughout May and June, and while the project has been self-funded by Polinelli to the tune of $10,000, they’ve just launched a crowdfunding campaign to help finish the war effort. More information can be found here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/emuwar/emu-war


“This is a Western Australian story, that should be told by Western Australians; and as much as I like to go big and dumb and niche with my filmmaking sensibilities, I also don’t want them to be empty caloriessays Polinelli.

“This is a movie with giant nightmare murder birds that’s Raiders of the Lost Ark meets Jurassic Park by way of Evil Dead 2, but there’s a lot of heart, that speaks to how we can improve; because if we’re not trying to make things better then what are we even doing?”

The film is aiming to be completed by December 2022, and is targeting festivals such as Sundance and South By SouthWest, because in the words of Polinelli: “I think we’re really making something special here, that speaks a lot to colonialism and how we can reckon with it in the modern age; and, well, why the hell not aim big?”

Emu War: A Subtle Examination of the Sheer Caucasity of Colonialism stars Ethan Thomas, Magnus Danger Magnus, Paul Montague, Joseph Stevens, Tate Bennett, Jayden Arts, Davis Anderson and Lucy Dunn.

Check out more behind the scenes photos below. 

A shell-shocked Waggner (Magnus Danger Magnus) is chided by his superior, Major Meredith (Paul Montague).

Levon and Simon set the shot as Reginald (Ethan Thomas) reports for duty.

Levon and Simon line up a shot of Ethan Thomas and Don Smith.


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