Directed by Ned Lander, The Wrong Side of The Road tells the story of two Aboriginal rock bands – No Fixed Address and Us Mob – as they travel from one country gig to another in the outback of Australia.
The improvised dialogue has some very awkward gaps, the film sometimes drifts and the sound is occasionally muddy. But the natural, almost documentary approach is an effective way of showing Australia as the two bands experience it.
They are harassed by outback cops who find it hard to believe that a group of Aboriginals could really own a truck-load of sound equipment, with one cop wondering why a white-looking member of the band would hang around with “boongs”.
Frustrated, a couple of the band take to the cops. Guns are drawn, a couple of band members arrested, the rest told to load the gear back on the truck, and piss off.
Back at the police station, the cops work over the handcuffed band members, because that’s the way it was done, and bail is set at five hundred dollars.
Both bands emerged from the Adelaide Centre for Aboriginal Studies in Music, and the idea to make a film about them was that of co-producer Graeme Isaac, a former filmmaker who taught music at the school in 1979.
Originally conceived as a low-budget 50-minute film shot on 16mm, it evolved two years later into a full-length feature film, blown up to 35mm.
The film did the alternative/film society/university/art house/indie circuit but didn’t get picked up by a mainstream distributor, and consequently, it didn’t do much box office business.
The film travelled the festival and alternative circuit internationally but didn’t break wide, perhaps because of a perception that the issues canvassed in the film were specific and parochial.
No Fixed Address