These interviews with cast, crew members and musicians featured in Wrong Side of the Road (Ned Lander, Australia, 1981) give them an opportunity to tell their stories about their involvement in the film, its social and political message and the connection with their music.
Among the issues they discuss are racism, deaths in custody, identity and land rights.
The interviews were recorded by the NFSA in June 2013, as part of the Wrong Side of the Road reunion at the 60th Sydney Film Festival.
WARNING: this article may contain names, images or voices of deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Bart Willoughby is an Aboriginal music legend – a singer, songwriter, drummer and multi-instrumentalist who has been playing music since 1978.
Willoughby is a founding member of the South Australian Aboriginal band No Fixed Address and a cast member in Wrong Side of the Road.
In this clip, he talks about the healing effect that songwriting has had on his life:
Graeme Isaac, producer and co-writer of Wrong Side of the Road, talks about how the film came about:
Aunty Leila 'Gayle' Rankine was a leading voice for Aboriginal people with a disability. She talks about her involvement in Wrong Side of the Road, back when she was a student at the Centre for Aboriginal Studies in Music (CASM) at the University of Adelaide:
Gayle's mother, Aunt Leila Rankine, was a founding member of CASM. The Rankine family were a well-known family of activists in the Nunga community of South Australia.
This 1981 documentary-style drama follows the Indigenous bands Us Mob, Coloured Stone and No Fixed Address as they move from gig to gig in South Australia. It is partly a road movie, as well as a protest film, a political film and a rock film.
It came out of the Centre for Studies of Aboriginal Music (CASM) at the University of Adelaide, where Graeme Isaac (who co-wrote and co-produced the film) was helping young Aboriginal people to form bands. Dorothy Leila Rankine was involved in the founding of CASM, and her daughter Gayle was one of the students who appeared in the film.
Isaac told australianscreen online, 'We wanted to take an audience, principally a white audience, onto the other side of the road for a while. And just to have them share in the day-to-day experiences of a group of young black Australians.'
Wrong Side of the Road, directed by Ned Lander, evolved as a collaboration between the filmmakers, the community and the musicians featured in the film. Although it has a strong documentary feel to it, the film is a constructed drama.
Its themes and content – including the personal stories woven throughout – emerged from workshopping the central characters. Much of the dialogue in the scenes was improvised by the actors, based on their own experiences.
You can stream Wrong Side of the Road in full as part of the Buwindja collection on NFSA Player.
This article was first published in 2013 and updated in 2023. It includes content from the Wrong Side of the Road entry on australianscreen online by Romaine Moreton and Paul Byrnes.
Main image: a scene from Wrong Side of the Road (1981). NFSA title: 26957