Elderly man in suit walking on red carpet

Filmmaker Alan Harkness walked the red carpet yesterday for the premiere of Village Life, his latest creation – at 90 years of age.

Having once worked alongside Hollywood screen icons Ava Gardner and Fred Astaire, the storytelling veteran has donned his director’s cap for a new passion project – a documentary about life at Feros Village Byron Bay, the residential aged care centre he calls home.

Village Life provides an insider’s perspective of the bold, beautiful and vibrant community of Feros Village Byron Bay, with many of Alan’s fellow residents and carers having starring roles in the film.

Shot on location in early 2020, the documentary’s premiere was put on hold due to the unfolding COVID pandemic but Alan finally got his moment in the sun when Feros Village Byron Bay hosted a much anticipated screening for residents, staff, family and friends on Thursday, February 25.

Alan, who moved into the Marvell Street residential care village two years ago, said he was motivated to get back “behind the camera” to help break down stereotypes around aged care.

“I want to show that aged care doesn’t have to be all long corridors and small rooms,” he said.

“I’ve met some really interesting people here - there's a lady who has taken up drumming, another who knits enormous, colourful blankets, some whom I've done ballet classes with and a man who works on these huge jigsaw puzzles.

"Another resident is a talented artist with an impressive display of paintings in her room. 

“There are a lot of different backgrounds and talents here - and stories to share.

“And the whole design of this space – with separate cottages, dining areas and smaller groups – makes it intimate and easy to get to know people.

“The layout means we’re surrounded by nature - and being close to nature really inspires creativity.

“I wanted to capture all this in the short film and portray to outsiders how colourful and engaging ‘village life’ can be.”

A table with a framed picture, a clapboard, a DVD of On The Beach, and a megaphone on it

During an editing and writing career spanning more than 70 years, Alan climbed the competitive movie-making ranks to work on everything from award-winning short films to major productions.

Among his CV highlights, Alan worked on American filmmaker Stanley Kramer’s On The Beach – shot in Australia in the 1950s and starring film legends Gardner, Astaire and Gregory Peck.

Feros Care Creative Marketing Lead Tarnya Sim said the organisation was thrilled to have helped Alan realise his documentary dream and provide him with an opportunity to support his skills and talent.

“At Feros Care, we are passionate about helping residents live a bold, full life regardless of age by encouraging them to practise old skills and providing opportunities to learn new ones,” she said.

“I’ve had long conversations with Alan about his film career and we’ve been supporting him to continue to nurture his love of film and cinema.

“He’s organised some movie presentations at the village and when Alan came to us with a proposal for the documentary, we were thrilled to help coordinate it.

“Alan wanted to portray the ‘day-to-day’ of life in the village - from the simple things like breakfast catch-ups to group trips to Wategos Beach.

“He wanted to show people that ‘village life’ can be fun, fulfilling and a place of friendship, which is not always something people associate with aged care facilities.

“He treated the project with pride and professionalism, with the full support of his fellow residents who happily jumped in front of the camera.

“Making this documentary really solidified the sense of community at Feros Village. It brought everyone together and has given us a chance to be part of something we can all be proud of."

Watch the film

Feros Care CEO Jennene Buckley said Village Life was another achievement to add to Alan’s long list of career highlights.

“It’s so important to us that our residents have a sense of purpose - staying strong, healthy, active and socially connected and having a reason to jump out of bed each day and live life” she said.

“The ability to maintain a sense of ‘self-worth’ through passions and hobbies is vital to our residents’ wellbeing and allows them to truly engage in community living and, when possible, contribute to the wider community.

“Sometimes it might mean connecting them with someone with similar interest or activities and pursuits that simply keeps them involved in the things they love.”

The documentary can be viewed here.

Read More

Read more from our blog

Go to blog

Stay in touch

Subscribe to our newsletter

Subscribe here