Almonte man returning piece of Australia's history

An Almonte man is preparing to send one-of-a-kind documentary footage back to Australia, almost 100 years after it was shot.

Joachim Moenig sends rare documentary footage to Australia's national archives

Almonte man returns historic footage

9 years ago
Duration 2:23
An Almonte man is sending a one-of-a-kind documentary film back to Australia.

An Almonte man is preparing to send one-of-a-kind documentary films back to Australia, where the historic footage was originally captured nearly 100 years ago.

The documentaries have been in Joachim Moenig's family for decades, a collection which includes five 35mm reels showcasing Australia's early cities and countryside.

"The footage shows the beginnings of Australia, the people that make Australia what it is," Moenig said. "It would be like going back to Canada with the pioneers and being able to photograph the pioneering families."

After contacting Australia's national film and sound archives, Moenig learned the documentaries are "long lost films," meaning he owns the only remaining copies.

"If these disappear, then it's like an animal going to extinction, it's gone," Moenig said.

Films to be part of 100th anniversary

Moenig said he decided to donate the films to Australia's national archives so the footage will be as widely accessible as possible.

Once the films reach Australia, the collection will be displayed for the entire country as part of Film Australia's 100th anniversary.

One of the reels being transported to Australia's national archives. (Julianne Hazlewood/CBC)

"It's like getting your history back, getting your baby pictures back," Moenig said.

John Green, managing director of Ottawa-based PREP Services International, is helping Moenig safely transport the films to Australia.

Green's team will carefully package the films, so the reels don't spontaneously combust while being shipped across the world.

"We had heard that these were literally one-of-a-kind. We felt that we had to make sure that they were going to get there," Green said.

Historic footage viewed for last time in Canada

Before Moenig sends the films back to Australia, he watched the footage one last time — he hasn't viewed the films in more than 50 years.

The ByTowne Cinema in Ottawa opened its doors to Moenig for what will likely be the last viewing in Canada.

One last screening of the footage was held at Ottawa's ByTowne Cinema. (Julianne Hazlewood/CBC)

"These films, I really enjoyed watching them again," Moenig said. "I was able to travel back and I'm hoping the Australians enjoy getting these films as much as we will enjoy giving it to them."

Australia's former trade commissioner originally gave the films to Moenig's father, Joseph, as a gift.

Moenig was just a child the first time he saw the films — his parents rented a projector to play the footage for the family.

"It was odd because I couldn't relate to Australia. But on the other hand, I was looking at families that were making their way in a new country," Moenig said.

"Essentially that's what we were doing, we were new immigrants to Canada."

Moenig's family immigrated to Canada from Germany in the 1950s. Moenig says his father considered immigrating to Australia, which created a lifelong interest in the country.

At 95 years old, Moenig says his father is losing his memory. But he believes his father would be proud of his decision to send the films to Australia.

"I think he would be very happy that the films are going home."