LUCKY MILES - IN HIS OWN WOR(L)DS
Writer/director Michael James Rowland’s debut feature, Lucky Miles, is a
comedy but it addresses serious themes that involve the first and third worlds,
as Rowland explains in his own words here.
As the populations of economically depressed or politically oppressed countries
observe the lifestyle the West enjoys, the idea of a safer life, a better life,
a more rewarding life in the West is born.
And so the West has to deal with the consequences of this, with the incoming
tides of alternately desperate and hopeful people flowing westward from the most
diverse of cultures. And it is the realities and tensions of our shrinking
world, a world in which foreign cultures are forced into contact with each
other, that are the true concerns of Lucky Miles.
"a creative tension"
The story: 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.
The film deliberately avoids representing ideas and realities that are more
effectively dealt with through reportage and documentary. Lucky Miles doesn’t
dwell on back-stories, nor anticipate what sort of welcome the West will
ultimately offer Arun, Youssif and Ramelan. These things are held in a creative
tension by the viewer. Resisting the pull of a tub-thumping didacticism, Lucky
Miles instead does what drama does best - reveals humanity by placing characters
in conflict. And in doing so it does something very practical and powerful - it
creates an empathy for them in the viewer.
For the Australian audience, Lucky Miles subverts and updates the unique
Australian myth of men wandering lost in the desert, in the dead heart of our
vast country. It echoes several true stories along the way, including Burke &
Wills. Yet Lucky Miles is more than an Australian story – it’s about a shrinking
world where cultures collide and will have a broad global audience amongst those
who also recognise these forces in their own lives.
"a metaphor for the consequences of globalisation"
Lucky Miles serves as a metaphor for the consequences of globalisation. It
examines a world in which we are forced to negotiate and navigate difference
between individuals and communities, regardless of how uncomfortable,
confronting or unpleasant we may find it. It forces us to consider how we can
and must bridge the cultural chasm that lies between different citizens and
states if we are to do business together, progress, survive. And – from a white
Western perspective - it does so without there being an “us”. The film leads us
to empathise with characters we are traditionally likely to regard as the
It is only in the film’s last few minutes that Arun, Youssif and Ramelan finally
enter our world. At this point, we groan that Youssif is misunderstood, there is
a collective sigh of relief the kangaroo shooter does the right thing and the
final scene is Arun at the door of his father’s house. Lucky Miles ends with the
beginning of a whole new chapter, not on a big emotional note, but with a firing
up of the imagination. What do we hope for these men? It’s up to us.
Published July 19, 2007
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Lucky Miles won the Jury Prize at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival in July 2007.
Australian release: July 19, 2007