Over the past few days, I have watched the six-part ABC series Mystery Road. Funnily enough, I recall watching another great drama, Seven Types of Ambiguity, this time last year. Clearly, it is becoming something of a tradition to watch an enthralling drama at the end of semester one.
What attracted me to Mystery Road was primarily its cast, which features many wonderful Aboriginal actors like Aaron Pedersen, Deborah Mailman, Tasma Walton and Ernie Dingo. These actors were indeed wonderful, but there were many other wonderful things about the show.
The show is directed by Rachel Perkins, the brains behind the film Bran Nue Dae (2010) and the documentary The First Australians (2008).
The setting and scenery
The show is set in a small town in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia. Place is clearly incredibly important to this series, as the landscape takes a much more prominent role than it does in most television shows. Each episode features spectacular shots of birds, bodies of water, cliffs and escarpments, long highways, abandoned buildings, red dirt and vegetation.
The smooth sounds of Dan Sultan feature prominently in this show and they are a perfect fit with the feel of the show. The talent of Australia’s first peoples is really on show here – Aboriginal actors, an Aboriginal director, and music from Sultan, an Arrernte and Gurindji man.
The show explores the mysterious disappearance of two boys, one a local and the other a backpacker, on the massive Ballantyne cattle station. As the story progresses, things become more and more complex and it becomes clear that everything and everyone is entangled. Themes such as power, justice and truth are central to the story.
The politics and history
The show also dives into Australia’s troubled past and present as a settler colony. The small town is clearly still divided along racial lines and many of its inhabitants are struggling to come to terms with the past and present. As the story progresses, the violence done to the local Indigenous people by the white settlers is revealed. Issues such as Indigenous incarceration rates and the poverty experienced by many first nations communities are also brought to the fore, and the show manages to draw the links between past and present in a way we often seem unable or unwilling to do.
It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that I highly recommend the show.
Love, hope and peace from Emma.