Based on the real life experiences of two Aboriginal bands on the road, “Us Mob” and “No Fixed Address”, gigging between Port Adelaide and Point Pearce, SA, Wrong Side of the Road is an uncompromising documentation of Rock’n’Roll, life on tour and racism in early 1980s Australia.
Wrong Side of the Road opens with scenes of police breaking up a performance of the two groups, arresting a band member and his subsequent escape from a police vehicle. It continues with run-ins between the musicians and the establishment.
The racism encountered when the bands turn up at a gig and the white hotel manager discovers they are black, the insensitivity of the police and bureaucrats, and the difficulties in tracing one’s family after being adopted out (“Stolen Generations”), reflect the problems encountered by many urban Aboriginal people. Wrong Side of the Road (named after a song from Us Mob) reveals the injustices Aboriginal people constantly face.
The thread that runs through Wrong Side of the Road is the story played by Les Graham in the film, of a young man looking for his mother. The film’s script comes from the life stories from members of the bands, and people around the bands and at the Centre for Aboriginal Studies in Music.
They weren’t necessarily playing themselves — Les was in fact playing someone else’s story in the film.
But if you look at the significance of the Stolen Generations and the way that that has become part of the whole public debate — it wasn’t in those days, but that’s what that story was about. It was about a kid who had been taken away from his family, and in fact right through the 1970s that was still happening.
- Ronnie Ansell - Ronnie
Peter Butler - Pedro
Franco Carli - City policeman
Sam Cohen - Country policeman
John Francis - City policeman
Donald Freshwater - Roadie
Leslie Graham - Les Stevens
Ken Hampton Jr. - Roadie
Chris Haywood - Country policeman
Christian Jocumsen - City policeman
Chris Jones - Ricky
Edward Love - Roadie
Frank Malony - City policeman
Wally McArthur - Wally
Rob McGregor - City policeman
John Miller - John John
Emu Nugent - Country policeman
Noel Pommery - policeman
Phillip Rehn - Country policeman
Richard Shoesmith - City policeman
Mark Thompson - City policeman
Craig Tidswell - City policeman
Bart Willoughby - Bart
- Release dates
- 1981 - Australia
- Video/DVD release date
- 1981 - Jury Prize at the AFI Awards
- MA 15+ - Mature accompanied
- Ronin Films
- No Fixed Address, Us Mob
Wrong Side of the Road is the first Australian feature made with an all-Aboriginal cast, and one of the first to give a positive viewpoint of (urban) Aboriginal life.
The film is the first Australian initiative to chronicle the experiences of Aboriginals from their own perspective.
Ned Lander was the producer of Radiance.
The National Film & Sound Archive restored the film in 2016 for the first time in painstaking detail. It then premiered at the 2016 Sydney Film Festival.
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