Having travelled the Mystery Road, indigenous detective Jay Swan returns in Ivan Sen’s new outback thriller Goldstone.
Following his acclaimed feature debut Beneath Clouds in 2002, indigenous filmmaker Ivan Sen’s work continues to provide audiences with a unique insight into his people’s culture and issues.
Mystery Road (2013) introduced us to indigenous detective Jay Swan, played by Aaron Pedersen, and blended a genre element with Sen’s signature themes. Swan returns in Sen’s latest film, the outback thriller Goldstone, in which the conflicted cop encounters corruption and human trafficking in a remote mining community.
“We purposely wanted to do something different with Goldstone,” says Sen. “It’s not only a different story, it’s a different headspace for the character of Jay Swan. Characters evolve and change because of their circumstances, and being an indigenous person, you get caught up in your environment. A lot of things that Jay Swan was trying to improve in Mystery Road actually manifest themselves inside him in Goldstone, and so he’s much more dysfunctional.”
Both Sen and Pedersen were eager to revisit the character, believing he had a great deal more to offer. “He can be placed in different environments, and as a black policeman, conflict will follow him no matter where he goes – both personal and political conflict,” explains Sen.
“There’s a lot of Jay Swan in Aaron, and there’s a lot of him in me,” he continues. “He’s very much a boundary walker; that’s what Aaron and I have done in our own lives since leaving our communities for the broader world to try and get our people’s voices heard and more understanding from the white public.”
Goldstone is a topical film, raising issues involving human trafficking, racial tensions and the mining industry. But Sen notes that the central theme of the film is the idea of what happens to the truth when different worlds collide, as viewed from an indigenous perspective.
Moreover, the insular community of a fly-in-fly-out mining operation provided a fascinating and morally suspect milieu. “It’s a world we don’t often see, apart from a few documentaries,” notes Sen. “In a dramatic context, there’s not many films that actually challenge the ethics of mining in this country. It’s always presented in a positive light.”
National treasure David Gulpilil has an important supporting role in the film, serving as a conduit between Swan and his culture, and Sen hopes that the ambience of this connection will resonate with both white and indigenous audiences. He adds that Gulpilil felt a personal connection with the events depicted in Goldstone.
“[David] was very passionate about this story because he had had a lot of interaction with mining companies in his home country of Arnhem Land. He knows how the land council can be corrupted.”
Although Sen has four Australian features to his credit which intimately explore indigenous themes, he believes we are yet to see a truly accurate depiction on the screen.
“We’re at an early stage in telling our own stories, and learning the craft in an environment where we’re forced to come up with more conventional approaches to telling stories,” he says. “I think there’s an honesty we haven’t touched on yet, including in my own films. But I think in the future, as we get more comfortable with the filmmaking process, we’ll make films that really stand up on the international stage and have an impact, and be more truthful to ourselves.”
Goldstone is available on DVD and Blu-ray from October 26.