The documentary ‘What has Bondi done to my Brother?’ traces the journey of one man’s transformation from banker to vegan café owner and examines Bondi’s eclectic community.
In a city as diverse as Sydney, one doesn’t need to go far to make a sea-change. Idyllic bays and beaches make the perfect landing point when descending from the city’s towering corporate industries. Joe Pagliaro did just this. Taking flight from a world of corporate banking and currency trading years ago, he now finds himself embedded in the world of Bondi Beach running the vegan cafe Zeitgeist Milkbar. This journey between lives, and just what makes Bondi so different to the rest of Australia makes up the subject of a film by Joe’s brother Tom Pagliaro and Morgan Wright of Adelaide’s Repeater Productions.
Joe Pagliaro prior to his Bondi sea-change
Never close as children, and moving through life on his own corporate trajectory working for lobbying firm Bespoke Approach, Tom ended up staying with Joe in Bondi while on a business trip. “I rocked up in my suit and he greeted me with long hair, colourful pants and a joint in his mouth,” Tom says. “He passed me a vegan curry and an organic beer – it was like meeting a stranger. I hardly said a word all night.” Chatting with Morgan, Tom decided he wanted to chart the course of Joe’s transition on film to explore just what exactly Bondi had done to his brother. Morgan came on board as director as Tom decided to put his relationship with his brother in the spotlight. But he couldn’t immediately raise the subject with Joe, and decided to interview him under the cover of the project being only about Bondi. “Growing up we were never close; he never had time for me and I was always intimidated and disappointed by him,” Tom says. “Asking to make him the subject of a film was a horrifying thought. We sort of just let him think it was about Bondi and that he could just talk about veganism, so it was a gamble that paid off, because behind those flowing locks and happy pants is still a fairly image conscious Joe who takes life very seriously.” Tom discovered that while his brother has changed tack in life, there are still elements of the workaholic banker that remain within him. His bohemian look veils the hardworking individual beneath, who works 70-hour weeks on his varied and growing set of vegan businesses. Speaking with individuals from Bondi’s scene, including Costa Georgiadis, Sarah Glover, Anne Look and Austen Tayshus (who was one of Joe’s first regular customers), Tom says he found a community more diverse than that presented on postcards and popular culture.
Television personality Costa Georgiadis is a big proponent of Bondi’s culture
“I had been several times as a tourist as just saw it as an extension of Sydney,” Tom says. “I had no idea that there was a community – and I’m not talking about people like my brother who had been there for five years – I’m talking about families who settled in Bondi as migrants two generations ago. They told me how Bondi use to be a poor and quiet place where everyone knew each other – so you can imagine how they feel now.” Austen Tayshus is a curious case in particular. Best known for his bawdy pun-heavy hit from the 80s, Australiana, Tayshus is the son of a Holocaust survivor and grew up in the Bondi of old, before the grand apartment blocks and cliffside mansions dominated its landscape.
Austen Tayshus is a Bondi native
The story of his brother’s transition inspired Tom to make his own leap of faith from the corporate tower. He worked for the likes of ex-Foreign Minister Alexander Downer at Bespoke Approach and while he appreciates the “amazing opportunity” the job gave him, he tired of the political environment. “I have photos with Abbott, Turnbull, Rudd, Howard, Katter and Shorten; it was like collecting football cards for a while there. I’d still love to get Hawke, Keating or Clive Palmer – that would be great. Although I found it incredibly interesting, it wasn’t fulfilling and I needed to change.” Taking a leaf out of Joe’s book, Tom took refuge in the cosmopolitan Mecca of Berlin, where he has now been for over a year. This seismic shift in Tom’s life is illustrated well by his first job-seeking experiences in the country. “I remember applying for a job washing dishes at a Mexican restaurant and decided that for fun I would leave Alexander Downer as a referee – I really hoped they would call him. But they just said I wasn’t qualified and found someone with better experience to take the coveted title of Head Dish-pig for $10 an hour.”
Joe’s experience inspired Tom to make big changes in his own life
Tom now works a few jobs in Berlin while pursuing his creative passion of storytelling. While he’s finishing up What has Bondi done to my Brother? he has also been travelling to and from Iran, working on another familial story: tracing the lives of two Afghan brothers who grew up as refugees in Iran and have gone in separate directions. “Now in their 40s, one brother brought his family to Berlin last year while the other stayed behind. It was an amazing experience that really vindicated my decision to change my path.” Close to reaching a post-production funding goal on Indiegogo, Repeater Productions will enter What has Bondi done to my Brother? into the world film festival circuit later this year. facebook.com/bondidoco repeaterproductions.com Images: Courtesy Repeater Productions