Earlier this week the ABC’s Head of TV drama Sally Riley was thrilled to announce that the Jay Swan detective series that began with Ivan Sen’s 2013 film “Mystery Road” was moving to the small screen in 2018 for “a landmark event.” Ms. Riley also announced that the series had secured not only star Aaron Pedersen to return as Swan but that “the immense talents of the extraordinary Judy Davis” would be co-starring.
While all of this is incredible news for Australian contemporary indigenous content on the small screen, one can’t help but feel the pangs of not seeing another Jay Swan story on the big screen and with Sen’s deliberate and calculating vision of the indigenous experience contained within this accessible police story. Perhaps our whispers that Swan is that we deserve were heard by the universe.
Sen will be relinquishing his role as director for the series; handing over the reins to director Rachel Perkins (“Mabo,” “Jasper Jones,”“Bran Nue Dae”). Despite the huge loss of Sen at the helm, Perkins is an inspired choice as a replacement. Taking the “True Detective” (season one) creative approach and appointing a singular directorial voice for the different format. The series writers are Steven McGregor, Kodie Bedford, Jon Bell and Tim Lee with script producer Michaeley O’Brien along for guidance. Perkins and Judy Davis temper the predominantly male writing team with an exciting feminine dimension. The 6-part police story begins shooting in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia in late August and will be produced by Bunya Productions’ David Jowsey and Greer Simpkin; with Sen and the ABC’s Sally Riley and Kym Goldsworthy as executive producers.
In the wake of “Goldstone,” Sen said that the continuation of the series was "something that Aaron is really passionate about and from his end he’s keen to keep exploring this character.” Sen goes on to say that Swan is “ such a dynamic vehicle to show the many facets of this country as it relates to the indigenous experience. The police story is always there, you can get into the issues that surround indigenous issues as much as you like. Because he’s part of the indigenous world and part of the establishment. And you can make a film about land rights as a police investigation story and that just gives this genre fresh perspective because it has deep political connotations." For the often overlooked, powerhouse Pedersen; I’m thrilled he’s able to continue the story of Jay Swan and excited about where Davis’ contrasting style takes them.
According to Film Ink, the story “…assigned to investigate the mysterious disappearance of two young farm hands on an outback cattle station. One is a local Indigenous footy hero, and the other a backpacker. Working with local cop Emma James (Judy Davis), Jay’s investigation uncovers a past injustice that threatens the fabric of the whole community.”
In an earlier interview with Graffiti With Punctuation writer/director of “Mystery Road” and “Goldstone” saw at least one more film, that he saw tackling “the whole land rights issue and the closing down of communities head on in a much grander scale than in the other two films." Perhaps this closing down of communities is the “past injustice” propelling the series forward.
Rachel Perkins, the “Mystery Road” evolution to the Television; I’m calling it now - this is going to debut at the Sydney Film Festival 2018.