banner image

:: Australia Day

Australia Day is directed by Kriv Stenders (Red Dog) and stars industry favourite Bryan Brown, and a cast of young locals. Through the lives of three Australians, the film takes a look at contemporary issues of racial tension and national identity that simmer beneath the surface of modern Australia. Australia Day is a Crash-style drama that contrasts three different minorities facing persecution, revenge and racism on the backdrop of the iconic but now controversial Australian day of celebration.

As a display of Australia’s changing cultural attitude towards diversity, especially in the media, the three different stories (that are mainly visually and thematically linked rather than narratively) kick off immediately, with a montage of the different persecuted characters running. This is a sequence that demands instant attention and introduces an immediate sense of escalating anxiety through a series of constant cross-cutting between scenes. On a narrative level, setting the film on Australia Day plays absolutely no part in any of the stories occurring. It seems like the only reason the film chose to set its events on this date was to increase the political poignancy without the script actually providing the necessary material to deserve it.

Sami (Elias Anton) is being chased by an angry gang of white guys over something he didn’t do. April (Miah Madden) is a desperate Indigenous girl running away from a high-speed chase that ended in a tragic car crash. And Lan (Jenny Wu) is a Chinese sex slave fleeing captivity in an illegal brothel. They don’t know it yet, but their stories are set to intertwine with devastating consequences. Also caught up in this dramatic web are a guilt-ridden beat cop (Shari Sebbens), a detective on a manhunt (Matthew Le Nevez), and a bankrupt cattle farmer (Bryan Brown). Fierce and uncompromising, this pulse-pounding film doesn’t shrink from the hot-button issues beating in the dark heart of modern Australia, such as interracial violence, drug abuse and human trafficking.

There is much to think about with Australia Day. It's an ambitious approach that’s rarely seen. Stenders and writer Stephen M Irwin are also firmly making a political point with their film. After all, naming a story about brutality, sex workers, and race relations after a divisive public holiday is quite a surprise.