lucky_countryThe theatrical distribution company Footprint Films is only releasing four Australian films this year: Samson and Delilah; My Year Without Sex; Lucky Country and Balibo.

The first three films couldn’t be any different in location, tone and characterisation – yet a consistent theme is that they all speak to what it means to be Australian. For me the contrast is most distinctive between Samson and Delilah and Lucky Country, as they are both films where the harsh Australian landscape is a feature. In Samson and Delilah, the film is surrounded by the searing sunburnt tones of the Northern Territory, whereas in Lucky Country, the bush is all greys, dull greens and damp shadows. Both films also examine characters who are displaced from their roots, but sadly in Samson and Delilah it is about the indigenous population who are no longer connected to their own land.

The writer Andy Cox introduced the screening of Lucky Country by explaining that he wanted to use the harsh yet beautiful landscape to highlight the tenuous relationship that non-indigenous Australians have with the land, as part of a greater theme of hope and idealism vs reality and pragmatism. His inspiration came from a timber settler’s cabin that he came across on a family holiday, which led him to muse on the constant reaffirmation that Australians make on what it means to be Australian, in contrast to his home country England, where there is no such discussion. In his research, he realised that the debates that were being held at Federation are the same debates that are still being aired today, and so he decided to set his script in 1902 in the newly federated country.

The film centres on a religious and zealous school teacher from London and his two young children, who come to Australia and try to eke a living from the bush. Even though they don’t know how to farm and their existence is harsh in the unfamiliar environment, they do not give up because the father fervantly believes that God will provide. One day three strangers seek shelter with them and what happens as a result of this encounter is unexpected and gruesome. Throughout the film there is a sense of dread and suspense as you watch the family disintegrate, trapped by hope, until they fall in a chilling conclusion.