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On the 25th August, Why Documentaries launched Beneath Black Skies to a capacity crowd at the IPAC theatre.

The documentary Beneath Black Skies held the audience's attention for the entire time...you could hear gasps in the audience when scenes from the disasters came up...

Len Leffley, one of the few remaining pick and shovel coal miners on the south coast then had the audience laughing with his stories, and jokes about nicknames "then there was snake, he was always ready to strike!" ...women banging their pots and pans then told everyone to go home! (just as in the Battle of Bulli).
Speakers included John Moneteleone (representing WCC), Andrew Vickers CFMEU, Sharon Bird MP and

Stuart Saywell - retired mine manager and president of mineral heritage subcommittee AusIMM

I got to work on this, and just saw how it turned out in the end, It is just so very good,moved me to tears ,One of the best and most worthwhile doco's I have seen well done guys.

Very powerful preview, thank you for presenting it.
Bill Ray

I have had many calls from old mates that I haven’t heard from years praising your documentary Beneath Black Skies. I’m so grateful that your efforts has resulted in uncovering old memories for us old blokes who have been reborn again as we watch beneath Black Skies... On behalf of all us old pick and shovellers thanks again for reviving our memories

Sandra, Tonight I got to see your finished work. You have every right to be very proud of creating this historic document. No student of coal mining history should be without a copy of this fine record. I will do my best to help you distribute this gem. Sincerely Merv Mahon
Retired Mineworker

Congratulations it is a great documentary.

This is a wonderful documentary that teaches about the past and has lessons for our future – it’s excellent presentation of the social, industrial and cultural legacy of our mining history is enjoyable viewing as well as educational. The whole team involved in its production are to be congratulated.
Sharon Bird MP

What a wonderful night and a fabulous achievement for you.  For me, it opened my eyes to a lot of the things Dad talked about for as long as I can remember.  It put everything into place, especially the war years and why Dad joined the Communist Party and became a union delegate.   He saw it as the only way to fight for better conditions.  Warren and I scattered the remainder of Dad’s ashes at Boat Harbour at Austinmer (a favourite place) just before attending the performance, so I think we can now say he is at rest (though I suspect if he is ‘up there’, he is fighting for a better something, he won’t be able to help himself).
Diane Haberley
Last night was very inspiring. Congrats again - I hope you're basking in the glory of it all :)
Thank you very much for letting me to be a part of the launch. I feel so honoured. Congratulation!!! It's such a big night. All are extremely impressive.
Great night the other night Sandra! You must be thrilled with how the documentary was received. Rick and I both enjoyed the doco very much – thanks so much for inviting us. We’re planning to buy a DVD for our elderly next door neighbour, who was a coal miner, as was his dad.

Thank you for inviting Wongawilli Colonial Dance Club ladies to be involved in the premiere of Beneath Black Skies last Tuesday night.Congratulations on a wonderful depiction of past times in Illawarra. The amount of extensive research and work which has gone into the production is amazing. Though all industries in Australia had terrible hardships in the first 200 years, the stories shown in the Illawarra mining days are truly horrible and unbearable.

A pulsating living history of the coal industry in the Illawarra, that is must-see as we prepare to wrestle with the issues of coal and sustainability.

I am a big fan of the horse! Fantastic night too - I loved the nicknames fella!
Jacqui Cappell

That was a galiant effort last night what a success congratulations.

Congratulations.! I think many of us in the audience were at times truly moved by your film, and that is something very special.

Well done Sandra and Javier...the night was a huge success...and I loved the doco...really informative and entertaining...wow, I had no idea of the history of the area, especially the trade union movement...fab night. Congratulations on a great night. Any nerves about how successful it would be should have been dispelled by the great & well deserved applause you received at the end of your presentation. I personally enjoyed "Beneath Black Skies" & considered it to be a well worthwhile project & excellently carried out by you.
Len Wright

Congratulations on the doco! I wish you both all the success in the world.
Gai Holden

Congratulations on the film. I am amazed at what you have brought together. Some of the underground footage, both archival and recreated was really beautiful. The interviews were great - and the amount of information you got across incredible considering the running time and the way you broke up the interviews with all the other material.
Phillip Crawford

CONGRATULATIONS. That was the best thing. i have ever seen EVER! thankyou for this oputunity And grats on your end result and all your success :)

I think you deserve way more than a bunch of flowers for what you did with Beneath Black Skies. Great work!
Gerard O'Neill

Wow what an awesome night! Sandra, Xavier and Why Documentaries you should be proud of the fantastic heartfelt story that was told...
Sarah Schols

just watched a most awesome documentary...congratulations Why Docos - you successfully tapped in to one of the major 'veins' of the Illawarra and did it wonderfully!!! xxx

Congratulations again Sandra and co; for a very moving documentary and a wonderful night, brilliant! My husband was a miner and I am sorry he is not longer here to see it. I am so proud to have had the opportunity to be involved. Thankyou!
Carol Ann Derks
Great nite last nite! The doc was amazing! U both did sooo well. Congratulations!
Hey guys, congrats on your doco. Really enjoyed it. Really interesting.
Jodie Macrae
How wonderful a great way to celebrate 3 years of hard work. Well done Sandra and Javier.
Yolanda Mullany
i watched the hard work and proffessionalism that you put into the project and that is very special and priceless indeed.
Al wright

We really enjoyed last night. You've done this so very well and deserved the great turnout and terrific reception the documentary got. I must add that I thought the opening sequence with the pit ponies entering the field was beautifully done. I know it's a cliche but it was truly poetry in motion. Well done!!
Dr Henry Lee UOW

I thought the documentary was well done and I doubt people would have recognized some of the re-enactment footage from actual.

it was great, really moving.
Jack Onley

To Sandra Pires and "Team", What a wonderful experience to see this great historical documentary, it brought back so many memories of the adults talking at home as a child growing up in Windy Gully Mt Kembla. Added to this was the delight to see one of the photographs from the Ryal family that I had collected from Ron Ryall for the Mt Kembla Mining and Heritage Committee and another added bonus for me was when I saw a photograh of my own grandmother about 30 minutes into the film, she is in the bottom right of the screen and I had never seen that photo before so this documentary has been a very emotional journey for me and I am so proud of you and your team and your final product, it will be a great learning tool for generations to come on the local history and Australian history.
Regards Clare Curtis

The Illawarra, South of Sydney, once held a reputation for the dustiest and gassiest coal mines in Australia.

In 1887 the miners at the Old Bulli Colliery were on strike to better conditions and increase their pay, but a train load of ‘scab’ (non union) labour was being brought to the Old Bulli Colliery to replace striking miners. It was the women who stopped the labour getting to the pits as they stood in front of a moving train and with their babies pleaded for the non union men to return home… two months later the Bulli pit blew up killing 81 men and boys.

Australia’s two most tragic and largest industrial disasters took place within 20 years and within twenty kilometres of each other. In March 1887, the Bulli Explosion and in July 1902, 120 children became fatherless, when 96 men and boys were killed in the Mt Kembla Disaster. Grandfathers, fathers and sons who worked together, perished together…

The south coast miners were regarded by some as the most militant miners in the mining industry as they were at the forefront of campaigns such as the fight against dust and the 35 hr week. In 1944, young miners in the Southern District were sent to war over an industrial dispute when for the first time an Australian coal mine was taken over by the Federal Government.

How did Australia’s first mineral export, coal, shape the men and women who lived the mining life… beneath black skies? This remarkable history of the area is told through the miner’s, their wives, their unions, mining historians, and the mining official’s perspectives.

Narrated by Australian actor David Field with a striking musical score, and dramatic re-enactments of the late 19th and early 20th Century, this film is a community treasure of Australian significance.