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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 “other”.

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

LUCKY MILES








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