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Ivan Sen is one of Australia’s most acclaimed young Aboriginal filmmakers, his latest film, Mystery Road, opened the 2013 Sydney Film Festival, had a gala screening at Margaret River’s CinefestOZ and won the praise of critics.

Murder mystery-cum-Western, Mystery Road is a new Australian myth, you could say. Indigenous detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pedersen) returns to his small Queensland country town and his first case is the murder of a teenage girl. Having spent a considerable amount of time in the big city, Jay finds himself alienated from both the police, including the Sergeant (Tony Barry) and drug squad’s Johnno (Hugo Weaving) and his community, including his own daughter, Crystal (Tricia Whitton) who lives with her mother Mary (Tasma Walton). Though thwarted in his investigations by a lack of cooperation from the locals, and a lack of interest from his fellow cops, Jay gradually unravels a complex crime web.

Massacre Creek, the fictitious creek where the body of young aboriginal girl Lisa is found, may be fictitious but the name echoes the many Skull Creeks around Australia, a name frequently used for sites where Aboriginals have been killed, or perhaps even more specifically Skeleton Creek, near Kurunda in Queensland, the site of a massacre of Djabugay people. You may not find a Slaughter Hill, but there are a few Slaughter Roads in Australia.

Mystery Road was shot in Winton, Queensland. Yet it is full of resonances from Sen’s home town of Moree in NSW.

Louise Keller – Urban Cinefile
In true western style, the final shoot out occurs symbolically on Slaughter Hill, which leads off Mystery Road. This is a film to enjoy when you are not in a rush – or if you are in a rush, it will slow you down. Either way, it is well worth the indulgence.

Andrew L. Urban – Urban Cinefile
Mystery Road, not far from Massacre Creek, is a place where mysteries are finally solved in Ivan Sen’s powerful and gripping murder mystery. It has the makings of a genuine modern Australian myth, a rare thing in Australian cinema and one to be cherished.

Eddie Cockrell - Variety 
… an impressively crafted, immensely satisfying contempo thriller… Holding the narrative tightly together is Sen’s superb script - rich in imaginative metaphor and brooding symbolism. Mystery Road is a place of metaphorical destiny where something transformative happens.

Frank Hatherley - Screen International 
… a …genre thriller with star Aussie actors at every turn. It’s a bold, unexpected advance…

Katharine Viner, The Guardian
“Blown away by Mystery Road at the Sydney Film Fest. Powerful narrative & message plus a stunning performance by Aaron Pedersen. Mesmerising”

Greg Dopoliopov – Screen Hub
"Ivan Sen has perhaps the most distinctive auteur vision in our cinema ... This is a deeply satisfying film, set in a stunningly photographed landscape with a group of Australian actors at the top of their game.” 

Published October 3, 2013

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In Australian cinemas from October 17, 2013

Official selection, Toronto International Film Festival 2013

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