Australian writer and director Rhys Day has teamed up with award-winning Indigenous Australian cinematographer Tyson Perkins to release Strange Country, a homegrown story that unearths the dark side of human greed and the destruction of our natural environment.
Set in a far remote corner of Australia’s wilderness, Strange Country centres on the ancient spirits that inhabit the region, and the people they choose for special tasks to protect the land from those that wish to steal from it for personal gain.
Starring upcoming Australian actors including Hunter Djali Yumunu Page-Lochard (The Sapphires and Around the Block) and Lily Sullivan (Jungle and Picnic at Hanging Rock) the eerily atmospheric film was shot by Tyson Perkins, alongside D.O.P Drew English.
Co-produced and written by Rhys and Tyson, with support from production house 13CO, the idea for Strange Country was borne out of the desire to tell an honest story about the state of climate change and the destruction of our natural world.
Rhys says: “I grew up in a remote rainforest town near Cairns in Far North Queensland. I was always enthralled by the stories of mythical creatures told to me by the older residents of the town. I used to imagine these twisted creatures moving through the forest, and in my mind, they were frightening.
“In reality, at the same time, the creeks near my home were being netted and stripped of their prize possession, the Barramundi. The rainforests were being cleared to more easily access precious minerals in the creek sand. As a young boy, I watched as people became wealthy off the land and I imagined the riches they received would make all of these folks’ dreams come true.”
In adult life, Rhys was confronted with the devastating effects of climate change and this encouraged in him a newly invigorated focus on the environment. He remembered the ancient spirits he was told about in his youth and he wondered: if the spirits did decide to join the fight to protect their sacred homes, which people would they enlist from the mortal world to help them?
Tyson says: “I hope audiences will walk away from this film having been reminded of the broader point that Rhys has made – that if we maintain our current attitude towards the natural world, it will come at a great cost.
“Strange Country is ultimately a reaction to the ongoing destruction of our environment and the implications of this. It is about the consequences of our economically driven approach to the land that seeks to achieve short term gains even if they come at the expense of longer term devastation.”
Given this is the message underpinning the film, Tyson sought to emphasise the landscape as a key character. Shooting around the Central Coast of NSW, the lead characters were situated in places suggesting the beauty and the power of the natural world. The landscape had to feel like something to be loved but also respected.
Tyson explains: “To achieve this, we shot in a wide variety of terrains – whether rain drenched forests or in the ocean in both calm and stormy conditions. We did this so as to almost humanise the landscape for the audience as a means to portray its reaction to the events unfolding in the story.
“It was wonderful working with Rhys on this project. He is someone who has a great deal of lived experience in these various landscapes of Australia and has seen first hand the implications of voracious human greed on Australian landscapes and their communities.”
Strange Country is set to premiere at an upcoming Australian film festival, details to be announced soon.