Alternative title: 'That Red Dust Doesn't Wash Out'.
I've just been to my first ever 'world movie premiere'. That is, the first time a film has been shown to the public. It was an experience, but not the one you would expect.
There was no big party, no hordes of photographers and cameras, no A-list celebrities (though the ones who were there are an A in my book), and no red carpet.
Just a red dog, a blow up screen and a thousand foldable chairs. Plastic seats for the VIPs. Just to my left and about thirty or forty metres from the screen sat a truck with the guts of the production — a projector and sound system — coming out the back of it. One of the film's producers, Nelson Woss, stood out the front and gave a rousing speech: "and if the screen blows down we'll project it on the back of a truck!"
"and if the screen blows down we'll project it on the back of a truck!"
It really was something else and as Woss listed the places the film could have been premiered ("Perth! Berlin!") it became hard to understand why they had chosen here instead — "the armpit of the northwest" as Red Dog describes it. Why return with your film and cast and crew to Karratha? Why not Sydney? Or even Perth?
I think it's because there's something genuine about the filmmakers, as there is the film that they've made.
That film was Red Dog: True Blue, the prequel to the highly successful Red Dog of five years previous. The reason for it being a prequel is that it's quite difficult to make a sequel to a film in which both of your main characters die (i.e. Red Dog and his 'master' John Grant). Well, two out of the three main characters — the other 'main character' in Red Dog is the land itself; the Pilbara.
Phoenix and the Pilbara are great performers for Stenders and they are joined by a fairly new kid on the block, Levi Miller (who you may know as Peter Pan from Pan). Miller is exceptional as eleven year old Mick, especially alongside classic Australian actor Bryan Brown. Like the original, this film has an ensemble cast with different quirks and personalities, and they all interact well. One of my main criticisms of Red Dog has also been corrected here, with a number of Indigenous Australians being part of the cast. Not only that, but Indigenous places are present and important to the narrative (not to give anything away).
Miller is exceptional as Mick, especially alongside classic Australian actor Bryan Brown.
So, while I'm sure the constant reminder that Mick needs an education was a reference to Peeto in Red Dog wanting to give everyone an 'ed-u-ca-tion' (AKA a fist fight), True Blue isn't simply a repeat of the original. There are similarities of course: a stranger shows up in the Pilbara at the start, there's an 'oz-rock' soundtrack, and the story is narrated by a character who was part of the events.
On that last point, I have to say I love how the film ties itself in with the first Red Dog picture. It's very meta and just avoids being too corny. What do I mean? You'll understand when you see the film, and you should see it, not just because it's enjoyable but because of the message contained within.
Recently, I wrote an essay on Red Dog and how it gives an impression of the Australian identity. During my investigation, one question I had was, how would it be if the film was made now, after the collapse of the mining boom? You see, the first film really glorified the mines and what they had done for Australia's economic wealth; it was a "love letter" to the mining companies as much as it was to the Pilbara region.
But things aren't so easy anymore and the city in which this film was premiered in (Karratha) is suffering the effects of an exodus as people are being laid off in droves. You think it's bad in Perth, you should read the papers up here.
In Red Dog, the characters keep on reminding us that they're in the Pilbara for the money, but in True Blue that isn't the case. Instead, the characters of True Blue come to the Pilbara because it is home. Home. Not a get rich quick scheme. While some of the characters stay for good, others are forced to leave, but if they do, there's one thing for certain: they'll always have a bit of the Pilbara in them. That red dust doesn't wash out.
That red dust doesn't wash out.
I only have a few more weeks until my parent's boxes are packed and trucked off down south, and it's only been two years since they moved up here but, just as much as any other place — and maybe more so — Karratha feels like it could be home.
An oversaturated, underexposed image of the screen set up. We were another ten or so metres back from here.