ABC telemovie tells remarkable story of war cameraman

Matthew Le Nevez in a scene from Parer's War.
Matthew Le Nevez in a scene from Parer's War. ABC TV

THE Oscars are Hollywood's most glamorous and star-studded event of the year.

But Australia's first ever Oscar-winning film was born out of the mud, drama and tragedy of the country's involvement in the Pacific campaign of the Second World War.

The ABC's new telemovie Parer's War tells the story of war cameraman Damien Parer, whose coverage of Aussie Diggers' battles on the Kokoda Trail after the Japanese invasion of PNG became the Oscar-winning film Kokoda Front Line!

Matthew Le Nevez, known to Offspring fans as the dearly departed Dr Patrick, stars as Parer opposite Rob Carlton as Cinesound producer Ken Hall, Adelaide Clemens as Parer's love interest and eventual wife Marie Cotter and Alexander England as ABC radio journalist Chester Wilmot.

"It was an amazing opportunity for me to learn about Damien and his story and the story of his family," Le Nevez told APN.

"What really dawned upon me is how lucky we are growing up in modern Australia; how many luxuries we're afforded. During that time it was a frightening place and these men gave up their lives selflessly for their country."

Parer made the ultimate sacrifice while filming the Allied invasion of Peleliu in what is now the country of Palau.

But not before making dozens of films for the Cinesound Review newsreel, which informed the greater Australian public of what was happening on the frontlines and inspired greater support for the war effort.

"The bond he developed with these men was incredible," Le Nevez said.

"He felt it was his duty to tell their story and tell it truthfully."

But his trips from the dangers of the front to the relative luxuries of Australia and the Cinesound editing room were difficult for Parer.

"So many of these men came back to Australia like my grandfather did, suffering what we know now is post-traumatic stress disorder," Le Nevez said.

"A lot of them drank too much. They didn't know how to talk about it and you see that in our movie. You see Damien coming back after each assignment, each time a little more hardened."

His conflicting emotions, and drinking, threatened his budding relationship with girlfriend Marie.

"The sad thing is you see the love he has for Marie and how he could have stayed and had a beautiful life (with her)," Le Nevez said.

"But he felt obliged to go back and tell the story of these men."

Despite Kokoda Front Line! winning an Academy Award, it was not the film Parer was most proud of and not his best work, says Le Nevez.

"Kokoda just happened to be the first film of its kind anywhere in the world," he said.

"There's this one movie where he's in a plane and he's not only standing over the cockpit of this plane that's dive bombing a Japanese freighter but he asks the pilot to do a lap and come back again because he didn't get the shot he wanted.

"He was perfectionist. He was so driven and continued to want to make a better move and better movie to the point where it cost him his life."

Parer's War airs on Sunday at 8.30pm on ABC1.

Topics:  parer's war

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