Movie Review: High Ground


On the eve of Australia Day I went to see the latest Australian movie High Ground. It turned out to be perfect timing for this powerfully, unique, visually stunning movie, that cleverly tells an Australian story from two sides.

Set in the 1930s in Arnhem Land, and using drone photography, the first thing you notice is the scenery. Australia looks absolutely stunning. The movie gives the audience a whole new view of Australia, literally.

The second unique aspect of the movie is the use of subtitles, as the Aboriginal actors use their own languages.

The use of Aboriginal traditional songs, mingled with sounds of Australian bush, adds a third and wonderful uniqueness.

The story starts with a young Aboriginal boy Gutjuk (Jacob Junior Nayinggul) learning from his uncle Baywara (Sean Mununggurr). After some horrific events take place, we catch up with Gutjuk as a young man.

In a bid to save the last of his family Gutjul teams up with ex-soldier Travis (Simon Baker) to track down the most dangerous warrior in the Territory, who just happens to be his uncle Baywara.

As Travis and Gutjuk journey through the outback, they begin to earn each other’s trust, but when the truths of Travis’ past actions are suddenly revealed, it is he who becomes the hunted. 

High Ground was highly acclaimed at its world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival 2020 and I can see why. Aside from the stunning scenery and mesmerising soundtrack, the cast boasts many great Australian actors, including Jack Thompson, Callan Mulvey, Aaron Pedersen, Ryan Corr and Witiyana Marika. And then there’s the story, which is cleverly told from both sides and asks the question, “can you share a country?”

As I sat with the rest of the audience taking in what we’d seen, while the traditional songs played on I pondered:

  1. The movie makes you think about key messages like: whether a country can be shared; that not all actions are as the seem; the senselessness of anger; that people are just people; and learning to walk softly on earth.
  2. I’ve watched so many subtitled foreign language films over the years, and yet it came as something of a revelation to hear the story told in Aboriginal language. Any yet why wouldn’t we? It added to the gravitas of the story and helped set up some excellent examples of miscommunication;
  3. Similarly hearing the traditional songs, and Australian bush was mesmerising. It would make a great soundtrack;
  4. Drones have definitely added a lot to the movie experience. See it on the big screen.
  5. We are so lucky to live in such a beautiful country.

(English and Aboriginal languages, with English subtitles)

For more information go to Luna Cinemas. Starts Jan 28.

7.0 Unique, powerful Australian movie
  • overall 7
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