Fifteen years after his sweeping adventure movie Australia drew mixed reviews from critics, director Baz Luhrmann has brought the story back to life in six-part television series Faraway Downs.
Unable to shoot his movie Elvis during the COVID-19 pandemic, Luhrmann used the time to look through rushes he shot while making Australia starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman and create something new.
"I realised that probably the underlying theme of you can't really own land or a child or a relationship, that you can only own your story, I thought that theme could really be amplified," he said.
Set between 1939 and 1942, the plot explores what happens when Kidman's English aristocrat character Sarah has to team up with a cattle drover played by Jackman after she finds herself in charge of Faraway Downs, a cattle ranch in the Australian outback.
While she becomes romantically involved with the drover, she is also captivated by Nullah, a young biracial Indigenous Australian child who lives on the ranch and is in danger of being taken away by police due to a strict racial policy at the time.
"I thought if I did episodically ... (I could) tell it from a First Nations point of view. It's an Aboriginal child, who tells his story," said Luhrmann.
While the "stolen generations" policy referred to in the series ended more than 50 years ago, last month there was a major setback to the country's efforts for reconciliation when Australians rejected a proposal to recognise Indigenous people in the constitution.
Luhrmann said he was disappointed with the result: "I would personally support what the majority of the First Nations population of this country wanted. And the majority wanted that voice," he said.
As for Faraway Downs, which starts streaming on Disney+ on Saturday, Luhrmann hopes that by combining a romance with what he calls an "ugly chapter" in Australian history, he will reach a broad audience.
Australian Associated Press