June 6, 2013
I found a friend in a fairly high place at the Sydney Film Festival who encouraged me to come along this year – without the expectation of of a lot of writing in response. But how can I not alert readers to the achievement of Mystery Road: written, directed plus cinematography by Ivan Sen. It’s not easy to put into only a few words what makes this film so good. So far as boxes go – it’s an outback crime thriller. But Sen adds layers of complexity (without weighing the film down) by drawing on his Aboriginal origins. Aaron Pedersen – as Jay Swan – gives a beautifully balanced (emotionally) performance as the youngish Aboriginal police officer just back to his sprawling dirty home town after training up in the big smoke to ‘detective’ status. Like so many what break through the ‘white’ ceiling, Jay is neither particularly welcome back among his white police comrades nor his Aboriginal friends and family in and around town.
With due respect to Pedersen and an illustrious support cast that includes David Field, Hugo Weaving, Ryan Kwanten, Zoe Carides – and many other familiar faces, the star of the show is the town. Its ordinariness reeks of a repressed culture of hate that suggests its not the only town like this in southern Queensland, nor indeed across semi-rural Australia. Despite the rough men and the rifles and the drugs and the pig dogs, this film is so much more subtle (and curiously funny at the most unexpected moments) compared to its predecessors which go back as far as Wake In Fright, and include more recently Snowtown, Wolf Creek and Samson and Delilah.
Enuf for now. I just want to get this up and out. It’s been a long time since I’ve attended a Sydney Film Festival. And this one, the 60th, has got of to a very impressive start.