FOOTY FILM: John Howard and Damien Callinan star in the new Australian film The Merger, which will have a special screening in Mildura on Sunday.

By MITCH RODD

FOR those who love laughs, films and footy, Wallis Cinema Mildura is the place to be on Sunday, with a special screening of new Australian cult movie ‘The Merger’. 

Australian acting royalty and star of the new flick, John Howard, will make a special appearance for the event.

The Merger has already received rave reviews around the country, with the uplifting story based on fictional football club the Bodgy Creek Roosters. 

With the town outside Wagga Wagga slowly dying, the club is on the brink of folding or merging, a situation that many in regional Australia have faced.

Enter Troy Carrington, played by Damien Callinan, who suggests the club can get extra funding by having refugees help with the rebuild. Ensuing hilarity, emotional moments and heart-warming scenes are what have ensured positive reviews since opening last week.

“We’ve been really amazed at the responses we’ve had so far,” John Howard said. “Much of what people have said has been the same, ‘John, it made us laugh, then made us cry, then laugh again, then cry again, and laugh some more.’

“My character Bull Barlow lost his timber mill because of the coach Troy Carrington, who gets the refugees involved. There is a telling scene when Bull is talking to his grandson. He asks, ‘Why do you hate refugees?’ Bull replies, ‘I don’t hate them, they just don’t belong here’. 

“His grandson then says, ‘I don’t like change’. Change is something that is happening in towns across Australia and this movie takes to that concept, but also fills you with hope.

“I think it’s very important to create these films, because no one else is going to write these stories apart from Australians. I love Aussie things and stories, which is why I have been part of them for such a long time.”

The film was adapted from Callinan’s one-man stage show of the same name after director Mark Grentell approached the comedian and actor about taking The Merger to the silver screen.

“This whole thing is Damien’s baby. He says we mucked it up, but we think we improved it,” John said. “On stage Damien plays all the characters and he thinks he plays Bull better than I do, but I doubt that.”

Mildura is one of many stops for the cast and crew across Australia to help promote The Merger.

The Merger screening will take place at 6.30pm on Sunday. Prior to the screening patrons are welcome to join visiting cast and crew for drinks. A Q and A will take place following the screening.

To book tickets head to wallis.com.au/cinemas/mildura.