Back of Beyond (1954)


A stunning verité epic that whilst ostensibly a documentary contains elements of fiction and fantasy that make for a rather unsettling experience. Never has straight factual been so weird.

An award-winning Australian documentary film produced and directed by John Heyer for the Shell Film Unit. In terms of breadth of distribution, awards garnered, and critical response, it is Heyer’s most successful film. It is also, arguably, Australia’s most successful documentary: in 2006 it was included in a book titled 100 Greatest Films of Australian Cinema, with Bill Caske writing that it is “perhaps Australia’s national cinema’s most well known best kept secret”.
The aim of the film, as requested by the Shell Company, was to associate Shell with the essence of Australia, with Australianism. Heyer took as his central motif the fortnightly journey made by mailman Tom Kruse, along the remote Birdsville Track from Marree, in South Australia, to Birdsville, in southwest Queensland. The story of Kruse’s journey shows that the true image of Australia is, and always has been, the struggle of Man against Nature”.

16mm B/W, 65 mins