On a hot summer day, a young boy lounges in a tyre swing hanging from the big branch of an old ghost gum. He peers through binoculars to catch glimpses of a baby koala and its parents living at the top of the gum’s mighty trunk. The surrounding bush vibrates with native animal life. In the distance, plumes of grey smoke rise above the coastal landscape, showering the horizon with ash.
As the boy helps his parents prepare their home for an evacuation, so too do the animals prepare their homes: a wombat clears his burrow of debris, a finch tidies her nest; flocks of birds begin their migrations to safer skies. The boy and his kelpie sit on the porch, watching on with trepidation.
The sun grows a burnt orange; a dusty hue befalls the landscape. A tiny ember drifts in the wind like an orange snowflake. The baby koala sticks its head out from the gumtree for a closer look. He winces and scratches at his nose, burnt by the ember’s seductive glow. Then the wind changes.
The sky turns an ominous black, then a blazing red as the fires race towards the coastal bushland community. A mob of kangaroos bound over fallen branches. The boy’s parents load their car with memories and keepsakes. The boy and his kelpie jump in but the kelpie whines and barks at the commotion outside. Through the smoke, the boy can see the family of koalas trapped between fallen branches. He rushes to their aid. Behind him, his parents approach with boxes.
“A line of cars follow the only road out of town. The boy watches through a rear window as the glowing town becomes distant. He turns forward and takes his seat. His kelpie lays on the floor at his feet. Something shifts inside a box beside him.”
The boy and his parents have brought the koala family in the car with them. Guided by rural firemen, the two families journey to safety. Though they share the same experience of loss, it is their bushland home that unites them.
And home is where they will return, when the bushfires are over.
Directed by Jonathan Chong (Australia)