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Drover's Wife film to premiere at prestigious South by South West festival

Darby Ingram -

Leah Purcell's The Drover's Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson is set for a world premiere at the prestigious South by South West (SXSW) Festival in Austin, Texas.

Renowned for discovering and showcasing ground-breaking international creative voices, SXSW will be held virtually out of the United States in March with a program that celebrates the coming together of the interactive, film and music industries.

The film will premiere in the Festival's Narrative Spotlight Section, for high profile features making their World, North American or U.S premieres.

The Drover's Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson is the feature adaptation of Leah Purcell's hugely successful stage play.

Based on the Henry Lawson short story and re-imagined for a modern audience, the adaptation tells the story of a woman and her stubborn determination to protect her family from the harshness of life in 1893 Snowy Mountains.

The film offers a new interrogation of Australian history and culture through a woman determined to ensure her children are given a future filled with hope.

Purcell wrote the screenplay, directed and stars in the film; she said she is excited and proud her debut feature film is premiering at SXSW.

"I've seen and heard so much about the festival over the years so to be following in the footsteps of the amazing films and filmmakers that have gone before me is humbling," she said.

"As an Indigenous Australian woman and filmmaker, I am proud to be sharing a story that has mine and my family's DNA all over it and to be able to share our cultural practice as storytellers through the film to the world.

"I wish I could be at SXSW for the film's premiere, but I'll be with you in spirit."

Bain Stewart is a producer from Oombarra Productions and Purcell's life partner. He believes the more stories shared about the real history of Australia the better.

"It's important to share our stories in an accessible way, through a novel or streaming service and address topics like colonisation, massacres and assimilation."

"The response to the play was so visceral, judges said Leah declared war on Australia's historical amnesia. She talks about things that Australins won't talk about," Stewart said.

"Putting this story out is important, when Rachel Perkins, Miranda Tapsell or any of our brothers or sister share their stories, we really can't tell enough of the true history of this country."

Stewart said being with the project from the outset has allowed him to watch the story progress from its inception to now.

"We did the play, we got the feature film and now we're going into development on the television series soon," he said.

"It was very important for Leah to realise a story where she reimagined the original settler, the colonial story.

"She's incorporated the Frontier Wars, Stolen Generations and massacre stories into this famous Australian story and that's why it's resonated the way it has."

Stewart added that it's fantastic to be involved with the SXSW Festival.

"We've heard about SXSW for a while now, it's one of the top tier film festivals in the world," he said.

"It's in Austin, Texas and it's a very cool festival in a progressive city. To be selected is the best possible result, especially in the context of COVID-19 and the way the festival has adapted.

"We're excited about the festival and its reputation, and the fact that the world premiere will be held through SXSW."

By Darby Ingram

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