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wrong side of someone

Wrong Side of the Road

Wrong Side of the Road is a 1981 low-budget documentary film made in South Australia in 1980. It is distinctive for being one of the first attempts to bring modern Australian Aboriginal music to a non-indigenous audience.

The film grew out of the work that a white musician, Graeme Isaac, was doing with disaffected Aboriginal youths in Adelaide, South Australia, in the late 1970s. He encouraged them to move beyond country music (which had been the principal idiom for non-traditional Aboriginal musicians), and to explore rock and reggae. Out of this, a number of garage bands were formed, and attained a limited but ardent following in South Australian indigenous communities. The marginalised lifestyle of the musicians often brought them into contact with police and the courts, and Isaac recognised that this provided the raw material for a story that could be made into a film.

Isaac approached Ned Lander (an established socially-committed documentary film-maker from Sydney) with his idea, and a script was written, loosely based on the real lives of two of the bands Isaac had nurtured, Us Mob (who played straightforward rock) and No Fixed Address (whose music was strongly reggae-influenced). The script interspersed the music of the bands with episodes of conflict with the police, and finished with a triumphant home-coming gig at an Aboriginal community. The musicians, their families and their community committed to the movie, and largely played themselves, under their own names, even though the story was fictionalised.

With limited funding, mostly from an Australian government film-funding scheme, and the support of a group of non-indigenous film technicians and actors, shooting on 16mm film took place over a period of four weeks in 1980.

The film, combining elements of road-movie and musical, drama and documentary, was released in 1981. It won a number of awards, both in Australia and internationally. The harassment and discrimination that indigenous Australians routinely endured was exposed to an audience that had been largely oblivious, and contributed to an increased awareness of those issues in the wider Australian and international communities. Both bands in the film gained increased popularity, with "No Fixed Address" in particular achieving ground-breaking (though limited) exposure on mainstream Australian AM and FM radio.

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