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Mystery Road (Ivan Sen, 2013) aka Moree Girls (working title) wr. dp. ed. Ivan Sen, prod. David Jowsey; Aaron Pedersen, Hugo Weaving, Jack Thompson, Ryan Kwanten, Tony Barry, Tasma Walton, Damian Walshe-Howling, Siobhan Binge, David Field, Robert Mammone, Trisha Whitton; shot in Winton, Qld; Australian release 17 October 2013; DVD release 12 February 2014
Won Best Film, FCCA awards 2013
Nominated for Best Film award, AACTAs 2013
Aaron Pedersen, Hugo Weaving, Ryan Kwanten and Jack Thompson star in indigenous director Ivan Sen's slow-burn Outback murder-mystery.
A young Aboriginal girl is found dumped in a drain beneath an Outback highway, her throat slit, wild dogs circling, and so begins the ruminative creep along Mystery Road, the slow-burn whodunit from Australian auteur Ivan Sen that just kicked off the Sydney Film Festival. Blending genre conventions with subtle commentary on race relations in a colonized landscape, the writer-director-cinematographer-editor follows up the striking realist features Beneath Clouds and Toomelah by corralling a top Australian cast and crafting his most commercial film yet. Megan Lehmann, Hollywood Reporter, 6 June 2013.
Set in remote Queensland, with flat, featureless country stretching to far, often magnificently sunset-red horizons, director/writer Sen's dark tale of drugs and murders is wonderfully captured by his own camerawork. He's also editor and composer. It's a considerable achievement, not least for the quality acting he has harnessed, though the pace is often too measured for modern multiplex tastes. Frank Hatherly, Screen Daily, 6 June 2013.
Rather than the slick crime-solving of television police procedurals, Sen takes time to dwell on an assortment of very Australian characters, with strong performances by Tasma Walton as Jay's ex-wife, Jack Charles as town character Old Boy, Tony Barry as the police sergeant, Hugo Weaving as an oddball cop, Jack Thompson as a sad old-timer, Damian Walshe-Howling as a small-time drug dealer, Bruce Spence as the coroner, David Field as a flinty-eyed grazier and Ryan Kwanten as his hunter son. Garry Maddox, 'Mystery Road proves solid choice to open film festival', SMH, 6 June 2013
The low-budget flick delved into the racial tension, crime and broken family relationships in an outback Queensland town - and climaxed in a spaghetti western-style shoot-out, much to the crowd's delight.
Director Ivan Sen told the auditorium: "We're all really pumped to get some people to see this film ... My last film, I had one actor who had acted before. It was nice to shoot something where I didn't have to call people's lines." Daisy Dumas, 'A mystery marketer at Film Festival', SMH, 7 June 2013.
Ivan Sen's Mystery Road, an Aboriginal police procedural cum modern Western set in a small outback town, was a canny choice for the gala opening night feature. I liked it with reservations. Apart from a terrific cast (headed by Aaron Pederson as the cop just returned from the city), the good part is that after his smell-of-an-oily-rag Toomelah, Sen has re-found the spectacular eye that marked out his earlier short films and debut feature, Beneath Clouds. This is a director who knows how to frame a shot (and he does all his own, often spectacular, cinematography). Lynden Barber, SBS Film, 7 June 2013.
There is slow burn and then there is Mystery Road, writer-director Ivan Sen's languid, dusty smalltown western set in a Queensland hinterland rife with racial tension, social malaise and organised crime. Superficially a murder investigation procedural, it is rather more effective as a psychological drama at the centre of which is an Aboriginal police officer increasingly at odds with his department, his family and his people.
Most recently, Patrick Hughes' Red Hill covered similar terrain; there are clearly also elements that remind one of Ray Lawrence's Lantana, Nick Parson's Dead Heart (also featuring Pedersen) and, of course, the Charles Chauvel classic, Jedda. Examining the difference in cultural, social and gender roles in Australian society against a traditionally tough rural setting, all within the cinematic milieu of western iconography, has proven enticing to some of this nation's best filmmakers. Mystery Road is further evidence of that. Simon Foster, SBS Film.
Writer-director-lenser-editor-composer Ivan Sen's Mystery Road is an impressively crafted, immensely satisfying contempo thriller that astutely grafts Western and film-noir elements onto the hot-button issue of tensions between indigenous and European Australians. Set to roll out in Oz in October under the Dark Matter banner formed by Sen, producer David Jowsey and exec producer Michael Wrenn, the pic has been snapped up for an early 2014 Stateside release by Well Go USA Entertainment; in the interim, the fest road stretches to the horizon. Eddie Cockrell, Variety.
Sharon Verghis, 'Outsider knowledge in Ivan Sen's Mystery Road', The Australian.
Gary Maddox, 'Return to country', SMH.
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