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In the remote Aboriginal community of Wala Wala, Tony (Aaron Pederson), an Aboriginal teacher's aide, has started an affair with Kate (Angie Milliken), the schoolteacher's wife. They make love in a beautiful remote spot, which unbeknownst to her is sacred to Tony's people. When this is discovered, two local elders decide there can only be one penalty, which brings tribal law and Australian white man's law into explosive conflict. Constable Ray Larkin (Bryan Brown) sees the traditional execution as murder and puts his own life in danger as he tries to do his duty.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Deserving of every accolade, Dead Heart has an intelligent, mature script, sure footed direction, superb performances and tells a satisfying drama. It's a film that was underrated on its theatrical release but one of which Australia can now continue to be proud in its new life on DVD. In simple terms, it is a story about the inevitable clash between white man's law and black man's traditional justice. Set in the outback, the story of a small Aboriginal community in conflict with the local, lonely copper (Bryan Brown) is at once a moving social drama and an effective personal trauma for the complicated, contradictory and isolated policeman, expected to carry white city law into this black bush culture.

Beautifully photographed with powerful images in dramatic country, Dead Heart works on every level. The subject is never compromised by political weakheartedness, there is nothing offensive to either white or black cultures: it achieves its editorial aim of making audiences think abut that inevitable clash, without making judgements. Not that it's pussy footing anywhere.... It's especially effective in showing the problems of trying to straddle the two cultures through Tony (Aaron Pederson).

Performances are first rate, from Brown's flinty outback cop to the cuckolded Lewis Fitz-Gerald and a group of fine Aboriginal actors, not the least David Gulpilil.

Nick Parsons' adaptation of his own play - after a couple of re-writes as we learn in the audio commentary - succeeds in generating endless tension and a veracity that is haunting. Speaking of the commentary, Parsons and Brown are subdued, even earnest, and seem not really sure which way to handle it, so settle for a mix of anecdotal background notes and occasional comment on the subject or the performances.

Part of their problem is hazy memories - it was made almost a decade before the commentary was recorded - which effects Brown even more than Parsons. On the other hand, once they relax, a few nice touches of dry humour creep in.

Other extras include interviews with Brown and Parsons, at the time, on Channel 9's Sunday with Peter Thompson, where Brown emphasises the appeal of the film to him (both as producer and actor) as being "very us...a very Australian story; and it isn't waffly but clear and strong." Indeed.

Also included, as part of an arrangement with the Australian Film television and Radio School, Parsons' excellent 19 minute B& W short, The Portrait of Wendy's Father, made at the school; cast and crew filmographies, and a text item about the film's genesis on the stage. The DVD ROM study guide includes Parsons' diary notes.

Published April 7, 2005

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(Aus, 1996)

CAST: Bryan Brown, Ernie Dingo, Angie Milliken, Aaron Pedersen, David Gulpilil, Gnarnayarrahe Waitaire, Lewis Fitz-Gerald, Anne Tenney, John Jarratt, Lafe Charlton, Djunawong Stanley Mirindo, Peter Francis

PRODUCER: Bryan Brown, Helen Watts

DIRECTOR: Nick Parsons

SCRIPT: Nick Parsons (play by Nick Parsons)


EDITOR: Henry Dangar

MUSIC: Stephen Rae


RUNNING TIME: 102 minutes

PRESENTATION: Widescreen 16:9 enhanced; DD 5.1; English HI subtitles

SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary with Bryan Brown & director Nick Parsons; script, screen & storyboard; photo gallery; cast/crew filmographies; 1996 interviews - Bryan Brown, Nick Parsons; Dead Heat on stage - photo galleries and footage; trailer

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: April 7, 2005

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