Australasian Cinema > films > Cargo


Cargo (Yolanda Ramke, Ben Howling, 2017) wr. Yolanda Ramke, prod. Kristina Ceyton, Samantha Jennings, dp Geoffrey Simpson; Martin Freeman, Anthony Hayes, Susie Porter, Caren Pistorius, Kris McQuade, Natasha Wanganeen, Bruce R. Carter, Simon Landers, David Gulpilil; zombies

I've never understood the attraction of zombie movies, or, more importantly, the possible meanings of the metaphor. Yolanda Ramke's film throws a new light on zombism - at least a new use of the genre. In this case, it's a disease carried (brought to the country?) by white people that can only be resisted by the first people's actions and a return to their values - placing community above 'jobs and growth'.

Martin Freeman's character is a relatively 'good' whitefella. He even tries to learn three words of language - tho he only manages to retain one. He tries not to catch the disease, but, having succumbed, tries to find ways to stop himself from affecting others. Like 'good' whitefellas since the beginnings of cinema in Australia he has a 'faithful Aboriginal companion': tho this might be the first female one.

See also: zombie films, first people films.

Also cf. Zombie Brigade (Barrie Pattison, Carmelo Musca, 1988)


David Gulpilil's character in this film is the 'cleverman'. First time in a feature film, tho there is the recent TV series with that title. However, I recall - in another zombie film as it happens, a 'cleverman' called Charlie (coincidentally the name of Gulpilil's character in Charlie's Country) who turns the narrative around.

To what extent does the idea of the 'cleverman' in this film come from the TV show, or to what extent is it based on a traditional figure in the sociology or mythology of the first people?

Quotations from reviews

While there’s a very thin line that Cargo skirts along the edges of saviour and magical native narratives, it never gives into either. What Ramke and Howling manage to do is use our familiarity with the tropes and continue to ramp up the tension until we get to the inevitable but powerful conclusion. The result is a showcase for original Australian stories, and one of the most remarkable new takes on the genre. Richard Gray.

I kept waiting for Cargo to feel like it had something more confidently to say, but it gets lost in the mid-section when meets other survivors, especially one who has ulterior motives. The parallel is clear—one man is selfish, trying to get what he can 'while the sun shines', while Andy reminds him the sun is most definitely not shining—but it feels too easy. And the film is remarkably slack in terms of pace given that it's got a ticking clock literally on the arm of one of its characters. It’s fair to say that I really liked Cargo conceptually and thematically, but less in its execution. Brian Tallerico.

To anyone who watched the short film Cargo at Tropfest a few years back, and there have been well over 14 million people and counting on YouTube so far, this new feature, written by Yolanda Ramke co-directed with Ben Howling, expands the idea of the zombie flick way beyond genre, and manages to combine aboriginal themes with zombie horror and storing emotional feeling. Really great performances from the lead actors have definitely helped make this film one that I could watch again and like so many Australian films the cinematography is really wonderful, lensed by the great Geoffrey Simpson. Annie Parnell.

Garry Gillard | New: 19 July, 2018 | Now: 24 March, 2022