It's 1990 and an Indonesian fishing boat abandons a dozen Iraqi and Cambodian refugees on a remote Western Australian beach, promising them that a bus over the sandhills will soon come and take them to Perth. When the fishing boat sinks on its way home, the two people smugglers also end up in the empty outback. Most of the men are quickly caught, except for two of the asylum seekers and one of the fishermen. The three, Arun (Kenneth Moraleda), Youssif (Rodney Afif) and the fisherman Ramelan (Srisacd Sacdpraseuth), with nothing in common but their misfortune and determination, escape arrest and begin an epic journey through the deserted landscape. Laconically pursued by an army reservist unit, they bicker amongst themselves as they try to find a big town - like Broome or Perth - without the slightest idea of the distances involved.
Review by Louise Keller:
It's a buddy movie without buddies; a road movie without a road; a chase movie with nowhere to go. Lucky Miles is a unique Australian story, bringing together three fish-out-of water characters thrown together out of necessity. While the story about asylum-seeking refugees is political in nature, the result is compellingly entertaining as filmmaker Michael James Rowland injects wry humour into the dramatic situations. Striking remote Australian settings and diverse, engaging performances make this a film like no other.
When we first meet the group of Iraqi and Cambodian refugees who swim to the promise of a new life on the pristine sands of Western Australia, we have no idea what their future will hold. Central to the story is the plight of three outcasts who find their fates intertwined when the merciless desert offers no option. Iraqi engineer Youssif (Rodney Afif) who comes from Basra, a city of gardens and fountains, finds himself figuratively handcuffed to Arun (Kenneth Moraleda), a Cambodian in search of his Australian father, and to Indonesian fisherman Ramelan (Srisacd Sacdpraseuth), whose boat has sunk. Each is an outcast and together they battle the heat, isolation, lack of water and their constant irritation of each other. Their plight is fraught with misadventure, as is the plight of their pursuers (the army reserve crew of Kangaroo 4), and the two remaining crew from the boat.
Geoff Burton's cinematography is outstanding as it immerses us into the wild grasses, the desolate sands, the rocky terrain and the flame-coloured skies. The tone projected is one that sardonically reflects the often tragically amusing plight of all the characters. We become involved in all of their lives as refugees, army reserve patrol members and boat crew find themselves at the mercy of the harsh Australian sun and the elements. This is a film worth discovering - just as its diverse characters discover their fate in a new country.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Zig-zagging between the comedic and dramatic, Lucky Miles is a patchwork quilt made of fact-based stories embellished by the imagination of the filmmakers, and it plays so successfully it was voted Best Feature at the 2007 Sydney Film Festival Audience Awards. (Appropriately enough, this award is sponsored by World Movies this year [after two years of Urban Cinefile sponsorship]; Lucky Miles brings together Iraqis, Cambodians, Indonesians, Iranians, as well as black and white Australians.)
There is a nicely judged and subtle correlation between the three Aussie Army reservists who are sent looking for strange blokes in the outback and the three foreigners on the lam; the internal dynamics of the two trios allows us to reflect on the humanity of the individuals, while still recognising an Australian-ness and the other-ness.
Michael Rowland's debut impresses with its ability to maintain a dry comedic tone to underpin the drama, without ever laughing at his characters or turning to heavy handed farce for effect. Perhaps a few minutes longer than need be, Lucky Miles nevertheless engages and entertains while having something to say. The film's concern isn't political, even if the subject matter has political roots. We recognise the universality of human nature and of our individual struggles.
Performances deliver complete enough characters, and the setting of untamed Australian locations gives the film a real edge - especially in the experienced hands of veteran cinematographer Geoff Burton. Above all, it's unique - which is a great quality.
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LUCKY MILES (MA)
CAST: Kenneth Moraleda, Rodney Afif, Sri Sacdprascuth, Glenn Shea, Don Hany, Sean Mununggurr, Sawung Jabo, Arif Hidayat
PRODUCER: Jo Dyer, Lesley Dyer
DIRECTOR: Michael James Rowland
SCRIPT: Michael James Rowland, Helen Barnes
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Geoff Burton ACS
EDITOR: Henry Dangar
MUSIC: Trilok Gurtu
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Pete Baxter
RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Dendy
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 19, 2007