Off Country

Director John Harvey,Rhian Skirving / 2021 / Australia

Indigenous teenagers navigate exams, social dramas and maintaining meaningful connections to home while at boarding school.

Every year, around 3000 Indigenous students receive scholarships to attend some of Australia’s most prestigious boarding schools. It is an immense opportunity, setting many of the youngsters on a path to a bright future, but it also means they must leave their homes and communities. Over the course of a year, Off Country follows several such students, who, despite hailing from distinct nations and having vastly different circumstances, each share a commitment to doing themselves and their families proud – no matter the difficulties.

Supported by the MIFF Premiere Fund, this eye-opening and empathetic film by Rhian Skirving (Rock n Roll Nerd, MIFF Premiere Fund 2008) and MIFF Accelerator Lab alumnus John Harvey (Out of Range, MIFF 2019) captures the tremendous pressures these students face – from academics and extracurriculars to sustaining ties with kin and culture, all of which are further complicated by the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic. Through candid observations by the students and contextualising commentary by Geelong Grammar staff, Indigenous community experts and family members, Off Country tackles tough questions around identity, belonging, coming of age away from home and how best to ‘close the gap’ without creating a new one.

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