Wednesday 7 March 2018

The Current Cinema - WILLABERTA JACK the documentary that inspired SWEET COUNTRY

Editor's Note: Andrew Pike of Ronin Films has drawn attention to a 26 minute documentary which was the inspiration for Warwick Thornton's current critical and box-office success SWEET COUNTRY. Here are the details.
In 2007, filmmaker David Tranter made an outstanding documentary, WILLABERTA JACK, and was inspired to expand the story into a screenplay for the award-winning feature, SWEET COUNTRY (2017). Tranter’s original documentary is a factual story of the Northern Territory in the 1920s when it was Australia’s last frontier – rugged and harsh. This atmospheric re-telling of Jack’s story, and the tragic aftermath of his trial, is a riveting account of the perils of being a black man who challenged the white man’s dominance.

"Sweet Country comes from my family. It was story from up in the Territory, north of Alice Springs and Philomac was my grandfather. I made a documentary about him and his older brother called Willaberta Jack.

"Then I was in the Tiwi Islands with Steve McGregor and Murray Lui working on a film as the sound recordist. After the shoot we went back to the house and had a cup of tea and Murray said that Willaberta Jack story, that would make a great movie. And I said yeah – but I’m not a writer. But I wanted to try so I went and bought myself a couple of sketch books, and I started drawing the story in pictures and it took me about two weeks.
Then I sat down with Stephen Cleary who helped me type it up into a treatment. I took it to the Ignite Screenwriting workshop and they helped me get 128 pages written in four days. I was real proud of myself. In the end we did three drafts and I sent each draft to David Jowsey and Steven Mcgregor, and Steven was the one who got the script to the point of making it.

"Me personally, I’m just happy to share the story with Australia, with the rest of the world. I’m just pinching myself too, you know, there’s been great reviews. But I just really hope that Australia will embrace it, and have a look at their past because it’s not just our story, it’s everybody’s story."

- David Tranter, director of Willaberta Jack and screenwriter and sound recordist of Sweet Country.
BUY THE DVD OF "WILLABERTA JACK" NOW from the Ronin Films website

Stills from Willaberta Jack

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