Off Country by John Harvey & Rhian Skirving [6/10]

Off Country” is a beguiling, low-key documentary following seven indigenous students with scholarships to Geelong Grammar (and Timbertop, the school’s rugged camp famous for hosting Prince Charles many years ago). Beautifully shot west of Melbourne and in locations around Australia, the film, by definition, subscribes to no overarching storyline, and in its middle can feel slow. But skillful direction by Rhian Skirving and John Harvey carves out a powerful narrative by film’s end, exploring the nation’s fraught history; the lack of moral resolution even in 2021; belonging to two different worlds; and hopes and aspirations. The seven students are natural, intelligent, appealing subjects, and key Geelong Grammar teacher/activists are superb talking heads. Off Country is a rewarding film for both inquisitive Australians and non-Australians keen for insight.

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