Sydney Morning Herald Coverage
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/movies/tense-showdown-20131010-2vav0.html#ixzz2mTma7gM5
When actor Aaron Pedersen says that half the population of Winton came to a preview screening of Mystery Road, the tense new Australian thriller he stars in, he’s not exaggerating. Almost 400 people crammed into the Queensland town’s outdoor cinema, watching a compelling story of corruption, denial and murder, which was filmed mainly in and around Winton and featured local Aboriginal youths as extras.
”They turned up dressed to the nines and got to see themselves on the big screen with their families there,” says Pedersen. ”It brings a bit of pride to the local people and gives them an understanding that anything is possible, especially breaking out of such an isolated place. Things don’t always have to appear inaccessible.”
It’s a simple story, but it’s layered with complexity. You want to believe that the world is intelligent enough to understand that.
The 42-year-old indigenous actor, best known for roles on television shows such as Wildside, The Circuit and City Homicide, knows a thing or two about escaping isolation himself, having grown up in Alice Springs before taking up acting via a stint as an ABC journalist in Melbourne.
Collaborating with writer-director Ivan Sen on Mystery Road, a work Pedersen is deeply connected to and proud of, is a statement of intent after years of success.
”I don’t think people thought Ivan would make something like this, or that I would, for that matter. It’s a great collaboration for two young warriors from separate nations.
”He wrote it for me and I’m grateful for that, but he’s also grateful that I was able to do it right. It’s a responsibility, but responsibility has always been on our shoulders. If you don’t have responsibility in a journey, then the journey becomes selfish.”
Mystery Road takes place in an unnamed outback locale, where the discovery of a teenage Aboriginal girl’s body begins an uneasy investigation for local police detective Jay Swan.
A product of the town who’s been away for years, Swan is estranged from his indigenous community and his teenage daughter because of his job, yet treated with wariness by many of his colleagues.
Swan is a continuation of the tracker figure, or turncoat, the Aboriginal torn between two cultures, and Mystery Road is an examination of the contemporary racial divide in Australia. But it’s also, Pedersen emphasises, a genre piece, a police procedural that slowly uncovers a conspiracy that obsesses Swan.
”It’s a simple story, but it’s layered with complexity,” Pedersen. says. ”You want to believe that the world is intelligent enough to understand that, but there are a lot of people out there set in their ways. If you make something that makes people feel connected to the piece, as opposed to challenged or ostracised, then that’s the sign of a good story.”
Often on the shoot Pedersen would finish work for the day and then meet the next member of the ensemble supporting cast, who had flown in to shoot their scenes, so they could rehearse together.
Ryan Kwanten plays the belligerent son of a local farmer, Jack Thompson is an ageing retiree, and Hugo Weaving brings genial wariness to a fellow police officer. Each interaction is a taut showdown that advances the plot against a backdrop of black and white Australia.
”It makes it much more complex,” notes Pedersen, who cites films such as Norman Jewison’s 1967 Hollywood hit In the Heat of the Night as a precursor to Mystery Road.
”It’s about a young girl, irrespective of colour, turning up dead, and a policeman having to do his job. Because of who they are and where they are, it’s much more dangerous. Jay’s outnumbered in some ways, but he persists.”
The film also taps into the iconography of the western, with characters framed against a vast and unyielding landscape dotted with sites of past and present violence. Swan’s white cowboy hat and holstered gun echo previous screen lawmen as part of Sen’s and Pedersen’s intention to make an Australian movie that could appeal to an international audience.
The two encountered racism on an initial 10-day location scouting trip they took together. ”We’ve seen it before and we know what it looks like,” notes Pedersen coolly, but they’re focused on what they’ve achieved with Mystery Road.
”It’s not just about dollar signs and fame. It’s about our people and the truth in our storytelling. That’s what you’re meant to do: change people’s lives by educating and empowering them. We believed we could do it and we have. The ancestors were with us on this one.”
Mystery Road opened October 17
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/movies/tense-showdown-20131010-2vav0.html#ixzz2mTmL7eBC