Director Pete Gleeson provides a bare revelation about the Australian outback in his 2016 documentary film ‘Hotel Coolgardie.’ The movie is based in a small remote mining town of Coolgardie in Perth at the Denver City Hotel. It follows the story of two Finnish backpackers who are robbed during their trip to Bali and decide to work at the Aussie pub for three months to earn back their savings.
Lina and Steph are initially excited to work in a remote town as a part of their work holiday but receive a cultural shock when they start working. The film then deals with their emotions and follows their journey, all the while documenting their bizarre experiences. While it is a documentary, the story seems to oscillate between fiction and reality. With instances that are hard to believe, the authenticity of the narrative is questioned.
How True is Hotel Coolgardie?
Everything that is documented in the film depicts the raw reality of that setting. Hotel Coolgardie is not scripted as many people have claimed. Gleeson’s association with the pub had started over a decade before he filmed the documentary, and he initially decided that he wanted to make a film about the culture in the remote area, especially when he noticed a lot of foreign women coming for a few months at the pub to work as barmaids. He reveals that he had not expected the documentary to take the turn it did with Lina and Steph, and his idea was just to capture the next foreigners who came to the pub. Since Gleeson is an observational filmmaker, there was no script prepared, and he decided to capture footage of whatever he noticed and the experiences of the women who came through a job agency.
Gleeson admits he did not have to get permission from the people at the bar to film them, but he made his intention very clear, and it came as a surprise to him that the behavior they projected seemed very normal to them. This film was originally shot in 2012, and when the women saw it years later, it still made them emotional with regret about the time they spent there. Gleeson admits that the film took the drastic turn it did when Lina and Steph realized that they were facing a very unpleasant situation, especially with the locals trying to make advances at them and turning up at their home right above the bar drunk, which made them feel the need to draw a line.
Lina also admitted that if they were not in need of money, they would have left the pub after the first day. But they decided to stick around and tried to be friendly with the locals. Another thing that Gleeson observed after filming the documentary was how hard it is for women to tolerate casual sexism just because they are in a new town where they don’t know anyone and are trying to be on good terms with the locals to not create a scene and cause trouble. His experience watching foreigners before them who came to the bar was very different since some of them seemed to adjust to the lifestyle that was projected there, which seemed very odd and unacceptable to Lina and Steph.
Lina and Steph’s experience at the pub has been terrifying, with Lina insisting that if she could go back in time and change it, she would. It has troubled her so much that she has sworn off camping completely. While the documentary is supposed to be a subtle observation about their experience, it turned out to be completely different for Gleeson. Lena and Steph were clearly appalled at the kind of harassment, sexism, and discomfort they were subjected to, especially due to the language and cultural barriers.
The locals captured in the documentary, on the other hand, seemed more offended that they didn’t adjust to their way of life like the women who came before they did. Lina and Steph, who were last heard from back in Finland, insisted they did not want to reveal details about their life since it was a scarring experience for them. With over 80 hours of raw footage to sort from, this compilation shows the true picture of how hard it is for women who encounter people for whom sexism seems to come naturally.
Read More: Best Documentaries on Apple TV+