In this episode, special guest Debbie Zhou joins us to discuss what defines the Australian Western, featuring True History of the Kelly Gang, Sweet Country, and The Dressmaker.
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Continuing last episode’s conversation about the Western genre, we shift continents to Australia this week. While sharing many genre elements with the American Western, Australian Westerns feature unique representations of colonialism and rebellion against authority. Special guest Debbie Zhou joins Editor-in-Chief Alex Heeney, Executive Editor Orla Smith, and Associate Editor Brett Pardy to discuss the newest take on the legendary outlaw in Justin Kurziel’s True History of The Kelly Gang and site favourites Sweet Country (Warwick Thornton, 2017) and The Dressmaker (Jocelyn Moorhouse, 2015).
True History of the Kelly Gang (2019)
Justin Kurzel’s True History of the Kelly Gang is the latest cinematic treatment of legendary Australian outlaw Ned Kelly (played here by George MacKay). Kurzel’s film aims to interrogate how Kelly actively produced his own myth in what has been described as a “punk rock Western”. Kurzel is probably best known for his film adaptation of Macbeth.
Sweet Country (2017)
Warwick Thornton’s Sweet Country centers the perspectives of its Indigenous Australian characters in its story of a man-on-the-run. Sam Kelly (Hamilton Morris) shoots a drunken white colonizer in self-defense and immediately knows he’s in trouble. The film unfolds a story revealing multiple violent layers of the colonial regime.
The Dressmaker (2015)
Jocelyn Moorhouse’s The Dressmaker is a much lighter film than the other two. Couture dressmaker Tilly Dunnage (Kate Winslet) returns to the small town which wronged her as a child, determined to get revenge.
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Show notes and recommended reading
- Order our newest ebook on Kelly Reichardt, featuring First Cow and Meek’s Cutoff available May 8
- Listen to our prior episode on American westerns
- Listen to our episode on Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale, another Australian film covering many similar themes.
- Read Alex’s 2018 interview with Sweet Country director Warwick Thornton
- Read Alex’s 2015 review of Justin Kurzel’s MacBeth
- Listen to Debbie’s prior podcast appearance, also discussing a George MacKay film, 1917
- Follow Debbie on Twitter
- Listen to our episode on Eliza Hittman’s Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Where to watch the films
- True History of the Kelly Gang will be available on VOD and Digital in the United States on Friday, April 24th. It is available to stream in Australia on Stan.
- Sweet Country is available digitally, as well as streaming on Hoopla and Prime in Canada, Prime in the US, and on SBS in Australia
- The Dressmaker is available digitally, as well as streaming in Canada on Hoopla and on Prime in the US.
- The intro and outro music this week is “Dan Rides at Night” from Jed Kurzel’s True History of the Kelly Gang score.