"Wrong Side of the Road" is a somewhat obscure film from the period that some call the "New Wave of Australian Cinema". It is a fictional (albeit semi-autobiographical) road movie about two real-life bands - No Fixed Address and Us Mob, but pulls no punches in portraying the socio-political issues that Aboriginal (or Indigenous) Australians faced at the time - and in fact is still quite relevant even up to this day. Not many Australian films up until this point had tackled this subject matter (although "Backroads", from 1977, is an early example however) - in this aspect, "Wrong Side of the Road" was certainly groundbreaking.
Some critics might say that this film is "too left-wing...", "too politically correct..." or perhaps even "too racially biased..." - but in honesty, the film is done from a perspective that mainstream Australia hadn't really either seen or heard previously. As a viewer, the issues dealt with in the film certainly resonated their point across quite loudly. Also given that just about everyone in the film is starring as themselves, it adds to the film's credibility as an honest portrayal of Indigenous Australia - yet it doesn't pretend to be a documentary - it is filmed more from a fly-on-the-wall perspective of the subjects' lives (with a few flashback scenes spliced in-between). However, the film does suffer from being a little slow-moving in some parts - a trait not uncommon with many Australian films from this period, which is sadly what bogs it down a bit. It does unfortunately detract from what is otherwise a quite good low-budget socio-political film.
Although there is one thing about this film which does make it enjoyable to watch - that is the soundtrack. The music is in one word - awesome! Both bands had originally formed in Adelaide in the late 1970s, and were involved in the Centre of Aboriginal Studies in Music. Breaking tradition with Indigenous Australian popular music (which had largely centered around Country & Western from the 1950s to the 1970s)
No Fixed Addressed pioneered reggae, both within the Indigenous and
mainstream Australian music scenes, and would ultimately earn themselves a cult following beyond the release of this film. Us Mob on the other hand pioneered Indigenous Australian rock music, however I would personally more describe them as being a 1970s influenced hard rock/heavy metal band (and quite a good one at that!), but sadly they would disappear into obscurity after the release of this film. Ironcally the title of the film was actually taken from the title of one of Us Mob's songs, which is perhaps their lasting legacy. Not surprisingly both bands were lyrically politically-charged, but at the same time musically entertaining.
Although both bands are portrayed as playing live in the film, there are simply miming to the tracks which they had recorded in the studio for the soundtrack album for this film. The album in itself is a piece of Australian music history (which sadly is out of print - and to my knowledge never reissued on CD) and is well worth listening to if you are a dedicated music fan or collector. As for the film itself, it is well worth watching no matter who you are, if only for an insight into a part of Australia which is often ignored and as a piece of Australian cinematic history.
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