Tuesday 20 September 2016

GOLDSTONE - Program notes by Tony Rayns on Ivan Sen's film screening at Vancouver International Film Festival

AUSTRALIA, 2016, 109 MIN

Director  Ivan Sen
Producers  David Jowsey, Greer Simpkin
Cast  Aaron Pedersen, Alex Russell, Jacki Weaver, Cheng Peipei, David Wenham, David Gulpilil, Michelle Lim Davidson
Screenplay/Camera/Editor  Ivan Sen
Production Designer  Matt Putland
Music  Ivan Sen
Production Companies  Dark Matter/Bunya
Print/Sales  Arclight Films

The matchless Ivan Sen,  Australia’s premier filmmaker of aboriginal descent, takes his reinvention of Aussie genre cinema several steps further in this thrilling outback noir, a smart mix of frontier Western, anti-corruption actioner and invocations of dreamtime. Cop Jay Swan (last seen in Mystery Road, again played by Aaron Pedersen) arrives in the tiny outback town of Goldstone as a barely functioning alcoholic, wrecked by the loss of his daughter. He’s supposed to be looking for a missing Chinese woman, but his personal problems – including brushes with the local white cop, a naïve rookie – stall the investigation. Only when the lady mayor seeks him out, with home baking in one hand and veiled threats in the other, and his crummy motel room is shot up by mysterious bikers, does Jay begin to do what a cop’s gotta do. His attention is caught by the Furnace Creek Metals Corp, which runs a high-security mining operation nearby …

Note the credits:  Sen not only directs but also writes, photographs, edits and composes the music. But calling him a ‘maverick filmmaker’ fails to suggest what an achievement this is. Goldstone entertains like a genre movie should, much better than most this year, but its shoot-outs and helicopter stunts are only the froth on the daydream. The story has deep roots in aboriginal identity, Australian history and racist politics, and Sen uses the iconic figure of David Gulpilil to guide the anti-hero to an understanding of what’s really at stake. Star and associate producer Pedersen says that he based much of Jay Swan’s character on Ivan Sen himself.  TONY RAYNS

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