In Pay Back we follow Paddy, an Aboriginal man in prison who has a vision seeing an elder telling him that "tomorrow is pay back".
Paddy collects his belongings and is dismissed from prison. "Have a nice life, Pat," says the guard. "Yeah," is Paddy's brief response.
He ignores an offer to take another exit. Outside two painted Aboriginal men start to sing and dance as the pay back ceremony begins. Paddy joins their dance with the media filming and recording the ceremony.
Finally one of the painted men raises his weapon and spears Pat in his thigh. "You've got your pay back. Now you're free," he says. Paddy moans and is taken to a waiting ambulance. One of the men also enters the car.
I don't like 'massage films', I like question films.— Warwick Thornton when asked about Pay Back
- Peter Datjing
- Release dates
- 1996 - Australia
- M - Mature
Pay Back is shot in black-and-white.
Warwick was inspired by ABC filming a traditional pay back but taking sides and "making a mess out of it". Warwick brought his "fire, anger and passion about traditional law going along modern law" into the film.
Warwick's film shows the full, authentic payback ceremony (including spearing).
The old painted man that enters the ambulance to go with Paddy has the job to make sure that he is okay. In spearing him this man has taken responsibility for Paddy.
Watch now or find a DVD/BlueRay copy
Browse a list of Aboriginal film suppliers and distributors
Other films by Warwick Thornton
- 2003Rosalie's Journey
- 2005The Old Man and the Inland Sea
- 2005Green Bush
- 2007Tnorala – Baby Falling
- 2008Dark Science
- 2009Samson & Delilah
- 2010Art + Soul
- 2013The Turning: Big World
- 2013The Darkside
- 2017We Don't Need A Map
- 2017Sweet Country
- 2019The Beach
- 2020Mystery Road (TV series, Season 2)
- 2023The New Boy
Use the Aboriginal film timeline to discover films you never heard of.
Take the quiz: Are you an Aboriginal movie buff?