movies: Mystery Road’s Outback appeal ....................
AUSTRALIAN filmmaker Ivan Sen funnelled his own childhood struggle into his acclaimed new film Mystery Road.
The director, who grew up in the NSW towns of Tamworth and Inverell, says he’s long been interested in the Aboriginal tracker or native trooper.
‘‘I think that comes from my own childhood growing up in a town where I felt like I was between two worlds, between a black world and a white world,’’ he says.
‘‘I’ve always been fascinated by the identity crisis that these guys must have had, working for the Crown and turning against their own people in essence.’’
He says in a way, a modern day indigenous cop would have a similarly tough time and from that Jay Swan was born – a detective who returns to his country town and finds himself investigating the brutal murder of an Aboriginal girl.
The story was also drawn from a personal place for Sen. The unsolved murders of young Aboriginal women from his extended family partly inspired Mystery Road, but he says the film is just an expression of that.
‘‘We’ve all got these stories in our families, not just me,’’ he says.
‘‘I’m not (from) the only indigenous family that have had women murdered and have had to put up with the aftermath of the police investigation being lacklustre and lacking focus and enthusiasm.’’
He says everything in Mystery Road, from the police corruption to the treatment of women, features details from real life. Filmed in Winton, Queensland, Mystery Road boasts a cast including Hugo Weaving, Jack Thompson and Ryan Kwanten, but for the integral part of detective Swan, Sen wrote the role with Aaron Pedersen in mind. He says he’s always wanted to give the indigenous actor something ‘‘juicy’’ and different.
As a result, when reading the script for the first time, Pedersen found on the pages a man he instinctively recognised.
‘‘It was like I was reading somebody I already knew,’’ he says.
Pedersen calls the multi-talented Sen, who wrote, directed, scored, edited and was director of photography on Mystery Road, ‘‘a hell of a skipper’’.
For Sen, not needing to work with people who would usually fill some of the roles he takes on, means he can concentrate on his most important collaboration – with the actors.
‘‘When you don’t have to collaborate with other crew, you can save that energy for the actors and for me there’s something special about that,’’ he says.
‘‘It’s a magic that happens when it’s you holding the camera and you’re there talking to the actor . . . And I don’t think I’d ever give that up again.’’
For Pedersen, Mystery Road was an experience actors dream about.
‘‘(It’s) something that will always sit with me for the rest of my life. I don’t think I’ll ever have a job like that again.’’
– CARIS BIZZACA
Mystery Road opens at Cinemax Kingscliff today.
Mystery Road star Aaron Pederson and (inset) with co-star Hugo Weaving in a scene from the film.