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BROKEN HIGHWAY

Australia, 1993 (MIFF 1993)

Director: Laurie McInnes

A merchant ship slowly steams towards the Queensland coast. On board a dying sailor, Max, asks a young colleague, Angel, to take care of some unfinished business; to return a package to someone he calls 'The Deadman', back in his idyllic hometown of Honeyfield. "This is what he's been waiting for — the sweet things money can't buy." However, when the young sailor reaches Honeyfield, it's a rundown fishing village, strewn with the flotsam and jetsam of broken lives — soon he realises that both Max's absence and The Deadman's mysterious grip have somehow conspired to trap these characters in their desolation.

So begins Laurie McInnes' atmospheric first feature, an ambitious and poetic excursion into the 'Northern Gothic'. Set on the mangrove-lined shores of Moreton Bay and shot in moody black and white tones, Broken Highway has no antecedents in Australian cinema. Its hot-house atmosphere owes more to the film noir and Western genres and the writing of Tennessee Williams than anything else, with echoes of such seminal American films as The Night of the Hunter, Orson Welles' Touch of Evil and more recently Coppola's Rumblefish. To see these conventions evoked in an Australian setting is just one of the many pleasures to be had taking in this brooding, unsettling mystery.

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