NATHAN RIVAS WRITES – As we approach the release date for “Jojo Rabbit” by Taika Waititi, the acclaimed indigenous director from New Zealand, it has become apparent that indigenous creators there as well as in Australia are in increasing demand in Hollywood. For example, top Down Under actors such as Jemaine Clement are starring in blockbuster movies like Moana, The Lego Batman Movie, and Men in Black III. In an interview with Popmatters, director Ivan Sen said “I think it’s something in the blood, where creativity has a played a major role in the structure of Indigenous culture for over sixty thousand years.”
Ironically, Ivan Sen, himself an indigenous Australian, may just find renewed and increased interest in his movie “Goldstone,” which fairly recently came to Netflix. He pulls no punches in portraying the harsh treatment aimed toward indigenous and aboriginal communities through colonialism.
In 2016, Ivan Sen’s “Goldstone” premiered as the opening attraction at the Sydney Film Festival and left with a variety of awards on the national and international stage. The film follows a jaded indigenous detective by the name of Jay Swan, played brilliantly by Aaron Pederson, as he stumbles upon a web of corruption in the small mining town of Goldstone.
Jay Swan, however, is more than just a compelling and troubled protagonist. In an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald, director Ivan Sen stated that detective Jay is “someone of indigenous background upholding white law in an ever-changing political landscape, where indigenous people are being tempted to engage in corruption at a level that we haven’t seen before, which is largely what Goldstone explores.”
The plot goes something like this: Upon his arrival at Goldstone, Jay is welcomed by a hostile white sheriff, Josh, and multiple assassination attempts that he barely survives. The effort to get rid of the indigenous detective is pointedly ironic, considering that Jay was born in the small town. Josh, the hardened sheriff played by Alex Russell, claims that poor conditions in the town, including sex trafficking, are what ultimately hardened his heart. Together, then, the unlikely duo—hard-hearted, bigoted sheriff Josh and the hard-driven indigenous detective Jay—is forced to collaborate in an effort to fight crime, clean up the town and prevent further exploitation of the local aboriginal community.
Ivan Sen manages to beautifully weave together a complex story made up of multiple plot threads enhanced by breathtakingly haunting musical compositions and stunning cinematography. These elements reflect the creator’s artistic training in music and photography.
As winter draws near, and the incentive grows to stay at home and watch movies under cozy blankets, this little-known Netflix gem deserves a watch – or two or three. Especially if you are interested in the long and tortured history of aboriginal Australians during the long period of British rule. Or simply wish to screen a very good movie.