Snaking through the Central Highlands and western regions of Tasmania, the Franklin River has struck both fear and awe into the hearts of those who’ve traversed it. But for eighth-generation environmentalist Oliver Cassidy, the relationship is even more personal: it was the site that his father, Michael Cassidy, had essentially dedicated his life to protecting.
In the ‘70s and ‘80s, the Franklin became the contentious site of a potential hydroelectric dam, and this battle was among the first environmental causes that spurned Australians to protest collectively. Michael was among those protestors, and just a week before Oliver was born, he was arrested after spending two weeks rafting down the Franklin to join a blockade.
Franklin presents never-before-seen archival footage and interviews from behind the scenes of the ordeal, and in doing so, it encapsulates the power of a community to protect the environment. And while enlightening – especially considering the Franklin was among the first examples of Australian collective action around the environment – its most powerful moments are in telling a story about the relationship between a father and his child.
Michael would sadly later pass from bile duct cancer, and in his final moments, he passed down his beloved paddle to Oliver. It was as much a parting gift as it was a challenge, and the archival footage is spliced with present-day footage of Oliver retracing his father’s 14-day journey down the Franklin.
It’s not a journey for the faint of heart; in fact, the Franklin is known as one of the most challenging white-water rafting ventures in the world, and many have perished in its waters.
“Am I here just to prove that I don’t need you?” asks Oliver after a particularly difficult leg of the trip. But as Oliver traverses the waters, he reconciles his feelings of grief and emerges feeling more connected to his father’s spirit than ever before. It's a tear-jerking testament to the power of nature to elicit strong emotion and connection, and as is repeated throughout the flick; "There's no turning back on the Franklin."