The mighty Outback Western is slated for a theatrical and digital release on August 19.
There is a scene at the beginning The Legend of Molly Johnson it makes it very clear that the titular character – played by writer-director Leah Purcell – is not to be taken lightly. Confronted by an unwanted visitor to her secluded home, she raises her shotgun and issues a warning, “I’ll shoot you where you stand and I’ll bury you where you fall.”
As I noted when I reviewed the film for Variety last year at the SXSW Festival in Austin: “Purcell delivers the line with such poise and authority that, had John Wayne or Charles Bronson been the recipients of this threat, they probably would have changed their minds and raised their hands. Never mind that Molly is extremely pregnant, unprotected by her absent husband – a herdsman who is too far from their farm for months at a time – and fends for herself in their remote cabin in the Snowy Mountains region of New -South Wales. From the start of The Legend of Molly Johnsonan exceptionally compelling Outback Western, there’s no doubt that it’ll take more than a sudden appearance of an escaped Aboriginal convict (and possible mass murderer) to shake his resolve or break his spirit.
Based on the classic 1892 short story “The Drover’s Wife” by Australian author Henry Lawson, The Legend of Molly Johnson – which opens in select theaters and digital platforms on August 19 – is powered by the chance interaction between Molly and Yadaka (Rob Collins), a chained Native fugitive who appears on her property at what turns out to be the most more conducive for sound. As an unlikely friendship begins to form between them, secrets unfold about his true identity. Meanwhile, Sgt. Nate Klintoff (Sam Reid), newly assigned to enforce British law at the nearby Everton outpost, realizes that Molly’s husband is missing and sends his agent to investigate. Nothing good comes of it.
Leah Purcell recently joined me in the THIS Studio to talk about his remarkable film. And, yeah, about what it’s like to play such a badass.
Leah Purcell’s official introduction to The Legend of Molly Johnson
The Legend of Molly Johnson The film is based on my personal experience as a fair-skinned Indigenous woman who grew up in a small country town and now lives in the city. I am a woman raised by storytellers, in a culture where the tradition of storytelling is passed down and where our stories are heard from black experience, not from whitewashed history books. lime.
As an Indigenous creator, expressing what it means to be black in today’s world through my work in film, television and theater is vitally important to me. Our traditions may be destroyed and our languages lost, but our stories are ours and it is up to us to tell them. My stories have black influences and I incorporate my own lived experience – of the Stolen Generations, of mission oppression and small town racism and prejudice, both black and white – and those of my ancestors. These are stories rarely considered. And they deserve consideration. I believe it is vitally important that our stories are told by us, so that we can all see them and connect with them. If I, as an Indigenous storyteller, cannot accurately tell the stories of my ancestors, then who can?
Through my work, I seek to bring to light the truth about our Australian Aboriginal population. The characters I bring to the screen are not stereotypical, ‘mainstream’ Australian Aborigines and it is a deliberate choice to show both my people and the wider community that we are so diverse in appearance. only in manners. Our narrative still lives within us. And thanks to the cinema, they will live long and for all.
The film is a contemporary form of Dreaming, it’s a journey that belongs to many but all leads to Molly Johnson. This Dream is a form of identity and cultural practice of ancient traditions. Through The Legend of Molly Johnsonthis transmission of history is evident and deliberate throughout the film.
Songlines are another element of storytelling and I brought that through the melodies into the contemporary composition of the music you’ll hear throughout the film. I was enthusiastic about the feminine quality that emanated from the score. Me and the composer, Salliana Seven Campbell, were drawn to more produced melodic composition and were influenced by our backgrounds in live music and performing in bands. I’m extremely excited about the music – all instruments are played live for the recording by Salliana. I’m also proud of the sound design, it lends itself to the fable quality in the film and plays a huge part in weaving in all the layers of storytelling found in the film.
I have had this story rooted in me for 42 years. My mother read and recited Henry Lawson’s book The Herdsman’s Wife short story for me since I was five years old. I connected deeply with the story because I saw myself as the eldest son of the herdsman’s wife. I prevented my mother from telling the end of the story and I ended it by telling her the famous last line: “Mom, I will never drive.”
At the heart of my film, there is a mother who will do anything for her children and a young boy who will be at his mother’s side, no matter what. It’s about love, protection, identity and family survival with a soul of ancient proportions. The story is intimate and also has an epic feel to it. It is unique in that it has an indigenous woman as its protagonist.
It’s a story rich in themes and the mythology of Indigenous generational storytelling, which is exciting for me to bring to the movies. This might be the first attempt to consciously structure a film to try out this ancient practice: the oral tradition of transmitting knowledge through history.
I chose the genre (western drama) because it allowed me to portray the true nature of 1893 and take the truth to its extreme in a deeply felt and cinematic way. This genre gives me the freedom to go there and I think it’s the most powerful way to tell this story.