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Review of "WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD"
By Jayne Waterford
Copyrighted © Jayne Waterford, 9th June 2013.
Please be advised there is a picture of Ronnie Ansell, deceased 5 years ago, on this page.
REVIEW: "WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD" by Jayne Waterford

Ned Lander’s “WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD” (1981) is a famous Australian film of national heritage significance. What passed for normal for Aboriginal Australians in 1981 is an eye-opener. There is one screening of this restored masterpiece in the SFF2013 calendar on 14th June 2013. Go along and support our culture. It’s a shocker!

“This is road movie," says Graeme Isaacs, producer of Rachel Perkins' "BRAN NUE DAE" (2009) & producer/screen writer of "WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD" (1981). The film opens with traffic noise. Soon everyone is in the station wagon headed west.

[May I call you Graeme? Sure.]

" "WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD" was shot on 16 mm and blown up to 35 mm through a process called CRI. The 16 mm negative was literally fading away.

The National Archive included it in a restoration programme. They regarded "WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD" as of national significance. We're very grateful. It's an honour that they should have chosen the

film." [They only chose one film per year for this honour – ed.]

Graeme goes on to describe the restoration project, "It was a huge job, recreating missing frames. They had to go to Interneg or Interpols or to release prints and find the frame missing and the regrade it for contrast, grain, colour and it was a huge job. There were hundreds of missing frames."

Hopefully the fully restored "WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD" will run in other festivals. It is currently slated for the Travelling Film Festival. It will go to regional areas and later be re-released on blue ray. There is also a television airing being planned.

"The soundtrack will be re-released digitally by MGM."

Filmed in 1980, "WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD" is a drama shot in a naturalistic style and gives the work a documentary feel. Graeme explains, " "WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD" shows the personal experiences of the band & their relatives."

The drama is set on the road as we follow both bands, "Us Mob" and "No Fixed Address," on separate for 48 hour trips, across South Australia, playing in pubs, not

(L-R) Peter Butler and Ronnie Ansell, "Us Mob," in "WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD"

Photo: Carol Ruff

©Ned Lander and Graeme Isaac, 2013

Carroll Karpany, "Us Mob," in "WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD". Life immitated art as Carroll had just been busted by the police before this scene.

Photo: Carol Ruff

©Ned Lander and Graeme Isaac, 2013

playing in pubs and their experiences on the way with family, the law and other Australians. We witness band infighting, racial resistance and self-discovery and heart rendering stories of tragic and immoral policies and treatment. Members of the bands confront problems that continue to plagued Aboriginal Australia. A barmaid is instructed to tell the band there is no booking. Pre-booked hotels cancel gigs on first sight. "I appoint whoever I want to play in this hotel... I try and keep a CLEAN hotel and I intend to continue to run a CLEAN hotel." "It's prejudiced!... Fucking racial ... c**t...“ They want to go back in a smash up the place. "You'll get locked up. We'll ALL get locked up." “Let's go to the beach eh?" And the band travels on to Point Pearce.

People speak openly about the ridiculous policies of the past: that their kids would have been, "graded, like foals or colts," that children were just taken away.

I realised bigotry was a theme and asked if they had dropped white actors into the action or if the crew had managed to capture any bigots on film? Graeme said they were all actors. Even Chris Haywood [Gillian Armstrong's "OSCAR AND LUCINDA" (1997) and Jeremy Sims' "BENEATH HILL 60" (2010)] gave them a hand.

Chris Haywood was kind enough to field some questions by facebook today.

When asked if he had any thoughts on the restoration of the 16 mm film to 35 mm format of "WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD" by the National Film and Sound Archive Chris replied, "Of course, this immediately makes it more accessible for screening in festivals and for theatrical rerelease, although of course a high quality file is more the go these days. And in the sense it is recreation of historical events it is of cultural significance."

Jayne: Do you have a way of talking about the experience of playing a bigot?.

Chris: "its highly unlikely we are born as bigots so they are normally a product of their education and culture, or lack of it. so shut down half your brain."

When preparing for the role, "I related to my own experience of being roughed up and arrested, and the institutionalised training of police forces.."

Memorable moments? "i was accommodated in the Aboriginal hostel in Adelaide which caught fire every night"

On the time, "I felt that the door was finally starting to open"

"I don't think i had to travel too far but there again you forget about distance when your having fun."

Memorabilia: "well just music in my head as far as memorabilia is concerned... and the pleasure of performing with "Us Mob" and "No Fixed Address"."

- interview with Jayne Waterford 10th June 2013

Chris Haywood circa. 2013

"Us Mob" takes the stage with a song called, "Genocide." Dramatised, real life experiences illustrate the lyrics.

There are not so full on scuffles with police on the dance floor, though Ronnie Ansell knocks a few down later on more than one occassion. People stand up to consistent harrassment, perhaps a little more than they would in reality. This film is an opportunity to stand up unhindered. The condescension feels authentic. I think that's a Crawford dressed in blue. "Request assistance at the rear of the hall in Spencer Street?" Everyone has fun ridiculing that hater culture.

Someone goes about obtaining their original name that can't be issued to him... "You were born in the country. What part of the country? In the north of South Australia. That's as much as I can tell at this time Les?"

The film itself was shot as close to choronological sequence as they could. This enabled the story to evolve and develop. During the pre-production right through to the beginning of the post-production the cast and crew lived together in an old hostel provided by the Adelaide Lands Trust. It's the kind of project every filmmaker wants at least once in their career. For

Graeme Isaacs it happened early. Mr. Isaacs came to the making of "WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD" as a musician.

When I asked Graeme what motivated him to think of this project and create the film his reply was a no brainer. The making of "WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD" was "a response to a real situation." 1981 is a time when indigenous media was at the beginning of a boom.

Jimmy Chi had already written the song, "Bran Nue Dae." Great bands, including, "The Knuckles," were coming out of CASM (at the Music Centre Adelaide). KARMA was moving through radio into television. "THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD" was "riding a wave of indigenous expression." And that's what got Graeme away from the indifference he found towards the music he was playing in pubs and into this project. He and director: Ned Lander wanted to bring this indigenous experience to a public. Graeme found the connection between lyrics, music, the musicians and the audience of these groups, "electric. It matters. It has vitatlity and is exciting."

Graeme Isaacs finds it very exciting that there is now a huge wave of indigenous media and he is very proud

to have been there when the phenomenon was breaking.

If there is a cinematic influence, someone contemporary to Graeme & Ned who were making their brand of doco-action-drama Graeme suggests it was the much admired Ken Loach ["THE GAME KEEPER" (1980), "BLACK JACK" (1979)] & Jimmy Cliff's "THE HARDER THEY COME" (1972).

Graeme is now producing a television music show, "Sketch the Rhyme" with his son Louis Isaacs. It involves rap musicians and people who can draw quickly.

Copyrighted ©: Jayne Waterford, 9th June 2013.

Ned Lander's
"WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD" (1981)
Release Date 14th June 2013 (ONLY SCREENING)
Category Music Documentary
Running Time 80 minutes (1 hour, 20 minutes)
Rating M
Origin Australia
Awards 1981 A.F.I. awards nominated for Best Film and Best Original Music, won the Jury Prize.
Director Ned Lander
Screen Writer Graeme Isaac
Producers Ned Lander and Graeme Isaac
Stars "No Fixed Address" band: Bart Willoughby, Chris Jones, John Mller, Veronica Rankine, "Us Mob" band: Ronnie Ansell, Peter Butler, Wally McArthur Carroll Karpanny and Leila Rankine, Gayle Rankine, Veronica Brodie and Donna Brover.

Distributor National Film and Sound Archive and The 60th Sydney Film Festival 2013

Official Blurb "Roads, rock and racism! This iconic '80s film, hailed as a game changer, has been brought back to life frame by painstaking frame. The soundtrack, in all its reggae-infused glory, has been restored to the filmmaker's original vision. The film
follows two days in the lives of Aboriginal bands Us Mob and No Fixed Address, as they trek from Port Adelaide to Point Pearce, South Australia.

The co-writers and band members - Bart Willoughby, Chris Jones, John Miller, Veronica Rankine, Ronnie Ansell, Peter 'Pedro' Butler and Wally McArthur - play themselves. The story is based on their real-life experiences and those of their community. Us Mob favours hard rock, No Fixed Address prefers a Jamaican reggae beat. This uncompromising film and its empowering music is as fresh and relevant today as it was 32 years ago.

"Possesses a rough-edged power and no-holds-barred narrative that combines to make the movie compelling viewing" - Rolling Stone" - National Film and Sound Archive and The 60th Sydney Film Festival 2013 PR

Press Release Circa 1983:

"WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD" was released in late 1981. At the 1981 A.F.I. awards it was nominated for Best Film and Best Original Music and was awarded the Jury Prize. The film was the focus of considerable media attention when it was released. This attention came from quite diverse sources, from magazine format

television, the rock and roll press, teh Christian press, and many other special interest groups in the community. This response verified the success of the film in using popular form to talk about important social issues.

The film has been watrmly recieved by aboriignal communities all over Australia and has also been taken up by Aboriginal education units for use in schools throughout the country. Th film will remain topical and relevant as Aboriginal Australians become more and more vcoal about their needs and aspirations.

"WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD" has been screened at 1982 Mannheim Film Festival and a t the 1983 Chicago Black Film Festival. It was presented as an outstanding film of the year at the London Film Festival 1983.

To see more, please click here to download the original press release.

Ricky Harrison (sitting) and Bart Willoughby in "WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD"

Photo: Carol Ruff

©Ned Lander and Graeme Isaac, 2013