The Merger is a quirky new Australian film with a simple message about the power of empathy and respect. It's also very funny—in the tradition of the classic Aussie films The Castle, The Dish and Backyard Ashes. Set in the small country town of 'Bodgy Creek', the movie follows the plight of the local (Aussie Rules) football team. The Roosters are cash-strapped, struggling to field a team and on the verge of folding.
Troy Carrington (played by Damian Callinan) returned to his hometown of Bodgy Creek 20 years ago when injury cut short his promising footy career. Troy is not well liked. Many residents blame his environmental activism for the closure of the local timber mill. He lives as a recluse on a farm on the edge of town.
Times are changing in Bodgy Creek. On top of the job losses from the timber mill, refugees are moving in as part of a government pilot to try to strengthen some rural communities. Recently widowed Angie (Kate Mulvany) runs a refugee support centre to help these new residents settle in.
But not everyone is coping with the changes. Angie's father-in-law, Bull (John Howard), who is the Roosters' club president, is still grieving over the loss of his son. He is leading a petition to have the local pilot program axed, arguing the refugees don't belong in Bodgy Creek (and presumably anyway else in Australia).
Angie strikes up a friendship with Troy and soon challenges him to step up and become more involved in the community by coaching the Roosters. Eventually he agrees. And he devises a plan to stave off a proposed merger with another struggling club. He enlists some of the town's refugees to play for the Roosters.
Troy's strategy to save the Roosters takes the town on a heart-warming journey of discovery. The locals gradually get to know these 'outsiders' and after some initial awkwardness, new friendships develop.
A feature of the film I enjoyed was the clever and timely insertion of the voice of the local community radio station announcer. We never get to see the announcer, but his distinctive drawl and dry humour help explain aspects of the storyline.
The Merger was shot in various locations near Wagga Wagga. It was written and directed by Mark Grenfell (Backyard Ashes) and produced by Anne Robinson. It runs for 99 minutes and in this brief period it will soften some people's views of refugees. Well worth the cost of a movie ticket.