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Australia 1977
Directed by
Phillip Noyce
60 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars


Phillip Noyce's first feature has Peter Weir regular Russell Boyd as cinematographer and is an existentialist road movie that has at its core the relationship between an Aboriginal and a white Australian drifter. Starting off just at the back of Bourke in north-west New South Wales the two men steal a car and head for Sydney 800 kilometres away, picking up and separating from various characters along the way. What starts off as a bit of a lark ends up badly 

Based on a short story by John Emery but with dialogue largely improvised by its stars Gary Foley, a well-known Aboriginal activist of the time, and a well-cast Bill Hunter as the racist yobbo, and released the same year as Fred Schepisi's more polished The Chant Of Jimmie Blacksmith, the film did not find a local audience but was deservedly noticed at the Berlin and Cannes Film Festivals.

Made on a budget of $23,000 and influenced by the realist aesthetics of American filmmakers like John Casavettes and films such as Monte Hellman's Two-Lane Blacktop (1971) it is seat-of-the-pants film-making that works, capturing the crudity of the time with unflinching honesty. 

FYI: There was another ending intended for the film with the three main protagonists (Zac Martin, another Aboriginal, joins the initial two-man odyssey) making it to Sydney and disappearing into urban anonymity but budgetary considerations and Foley's pessimistic view of the future for Black Australia determined the ending that we see.




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