Featuring Q&A with Director Phillip Noyce (via Skype)
Jack (Bill Hunter) is an aimless drifter who runs into Gary (Gary Foley), a man at a loose end after his marriage breaks up. They steal a beat up old Pontiac and begin a journey through some back roads towards the coast.
A truly impressive first film from Phillip Noyce, Backroads is a road movie that fires on all cylinders: it’s funny, it’s political, it’s engaging and the characters are wonderful. Largely unknown and under appreciated it was low/no budget filmmaking at its best on our big screen.
The Q&A after this film will involve a Skype interview with Director Phillip Noyce. His directing credits include Rabbit Proof Fence (2002 AFI for Best Film), Newsfront (AFI Best Director 1978), Dead Calm (with Nicole Kidman), The Patriot Games (with Harrison Ford), Clear and Present Danger, Salt (with Angelina Jolie), and The Quiet American (with Michael Caine).
Courtesy of the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia
Distributor: National Film and Sound Archive and Smart Street Films
Dates & Times:
Wednesday 9 September 6:30pm
Nibbles and a drink* are included in the ticket price
*Standard beer, wine or soft drink.
Noyce was born in Griffith, New South Wales, attended high school at Barker College, Sydney, and began making short films at the age of 18, starting with Better to Reign in Hell, using his friends as the cast. After graduating from Sydney University, he joined the Australian Film, Television and Radio School in 1973, and released his first professional film in 1975. Many of his films feature espionage, as Noyce grew up listening to his father’s stories of serving with the Australian Commando unit Z Force during World War II.
After his debut feature, the medium-length Backroads (1977), Noyce achieved huge commercial and critical success with Newsfront (1978), which won Australian Film Institute (AFI) awards for Best Film, Director, Actor, and Screenplay.
Noyce worked on two miniseries for Australian television with fellow Australian filmmaker George Miller: The Dismissal (1983) and The Cowra Breakout (1984).
Miller also produced the film that brought Noyce to the attention of Hollywood studios – Dead Calm (1989) which turned Nicole Kidman into a star.
Moving with his young family to the United States in 1991, Noyce directed five films over the following eight years, of which Clear and Present Danger, starring Harrison Ford, was the most successful, critically and commercially, grossing $216 million.
After 1999’s Bone Collector starring Angelina Jolie and Denzel Washington, Noyce decided to return to his native Australia for Stolen Generations saga Rabbit-Proof Fence, which won the AFI Award for Best Film in 2002. He has described Rabbit-Proof Fence as “easily” his proudest moment as a director: “Showing that film to various Aboriginal communities around the country and seeing their response, because it gave validity to the experiences of the stolen generations.” Although independently financed, the film was a huge hit with Australian audiences and sold worldwide.
Noyce was also lauded for The Quiet American, the 2002 adaptation of Graham Greene’s novel, which gave Michael Caine an Academy Award Best Actor nomination and earned best director awards from London Film Critics’ Circle and National Board of Review in the US. After the Apartheid-set Catch a Fire (2006) in South Africa, Noyce decided to make another big budget studio film with 2010’s Salt starring Angelina Jolie, which proved to be his biggest commercial hit to date, making nearly $300 million worldwide.
In Spring 2011, Noyce directed and executive produced the ABC pilot Revenge, which has ended after four seasons on May 10, 2015.
In 2013, Noyce directed and executive produced the NBC pilot Crisis, which went to series. Later that year, he returned to South Africa to film The Giver, starring Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, and Brenton Thwaites, which opened in the US on August 15th, 2014 fromThe Weinstein Company.
In 2015, Noyce will direct The Wonga Coup for producer Jeremy Thomas, from a script by Steven Knight.
By Urban Cinefile Editor in Chief, Andrew L. Urban
Barely feature length at 57 minutes, Backroads is a truly impressive first film from Phillip Noyce, who went on to make the multi award winning Newsfront a year later. Backroads is a road movie that fires on all cylinders: it’s funny, it’s political, it’s engaging and the characters are tangibly real in a definitive landscape – photographed by the great Russell Boyd.
John Emery’s script, enhanced by the director and cast, is astringent and authentic and Noyce displays his cinematic chops in abundance. This is virtuoso filmmaking.
The film has many other pleasures, including the outstanding performances of the five travellers. Each actor delivers totally authentic characters within the context of the film and the interaction between them all gives us great dramatic satisfaction.
The remastering of the film in as high a digital quality as possible is a demonstration of the value of new technology; the original 4:3, 16 mm images were reframed for the 16:9 widescreen format, and the film was regraded; the finished work was cleaned up frame by frame.
It’s important in the context of Australian cinema, but it’s importance is overshadowed by its pungent power and its haunting quality.