Magazine article Screen International

Goldstone': Sydney Film Festival Review

Magazine article Screen International

Goldstone': Sydney Film Festival Review

Article excerpt

Dir/scr. Ivan Sen. Australia, 2016, 109 mins.

The sun-drenched expanses of the Australian outback have provided the backdrop to many a film and offered parallels to many a divided internal state, and yet no one shoots the country's landscape with as much conflicted emotion as Ivan Sen. Writing, directing, shooting, editing, and composing the score for Goldstone, the multi-talented filmmaker roams his homeland with an affectionate yet cautious eye. Given that his fifth feature tells of an Aboriginal police detective navigating several clashes of culture - stemming not only from his choice of employment and unexpected arrival in the titular town, but from ingrained national prejudices dating back centuries - seeing both beauty and danger at every turn is fitting.

In fact, Goldstone is Sen's second neo western excursion into such a situation, and into the cases and intricacies of Jay Swan (Aaron Pedersen), following the director's 2013 effort Mystery Road. A stand-alone companion piece more than a conventional sequel, and one that could easily lead to further tangential chapters, the film further follows in its predecessor's footsteps by opening the Sydney Film Festival. Mystery Road then went on to play in Toronto and enjoyed an Australian theatrical run - and though the latter is already confirmed, with Goldstone bowing locally in early July, global showings on the festival circuit also seem likely.

With a collage of sepia-hued photographs of antipodean times gone by, Sen starts Goldstone with a clear statement; the archival snapshots might hail from the past, but whether anything has changed in similar insular communities across the nation is a question the filmmaker wants audiences to contemplate. Swan's first appearance serves to reinforce this, particularly when his fast-moving four-wheel drive is pulled over by area cop Josh Waters (Alex Russell). Last time the character was seen on screen three years ago, he was a picture of law and order. Here, Swan is so visibly drunk and disheveled that Josh falls back on cultural stereotypes, failing to realise that the speedster is a fellow officer until he finds a badge in his belongings.

Alas, with the nearby Furnace Creek goldmine the main employer in town, and ostensibly controlling the region under the guidance of site manager Johnny (David Wenham) as a result, that's the warmest welcome Swan receives. The bulk of the Goldstone populace doesn't take kindly to an outsider, especially a lone gunslinger on the trail of a missing Chinese woman potentially linked to a local brothel. …

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