Faraway Downs is a project director Baz Luhrmann undertook during the time when everyone was stuck at home due to COVID. Luhrmann was the director of 2008’s film Australia. He had miles of film in his garage from the making of that film. Much of it hadn’t been in the film. He re-cut and re-edited all of it to create a 6 part mini-series for Hulu called Faraway Downs.
Faraway Downs is the same story from that 15 year old movie, but different. A key change was to make the series over from the point of view of the half-indigenous child Nullah (Brandon Walters).
Aboriginal art was used in the opening credits, with Aboriginal music on the soundtrack. There were cards at the beginning honoring the indigenous people from that area and warning that images of people who had passed away were included in the film. There were acknowledgements of the so-called Lost Generations of mixed race Aboriginal children who had been stolen away from their families and taken to church run children’s homes.
Around these major changes, the original story of Lady Sarah Ashley’s (Nicole Kidman) efforts to save her huge cattle ranch in northern Australia after the death of her husband were similar to the original. Her relationship with Drover (Hugh Jackman) helped her save Faraway Downs, but the ending of their story was changed.
Sarah still outfoxed the cattle baron King Carney (Bryan Brown) and befriended his wife Cath Carney (Essie Davis). The evil villain Neil Fletcher (David Wenham) still did all his evil deeds. The Japanese still bombed Darwin at the start of World War II.
Nullah learned his magic from his grandfather, King George (David Gulpilil), who wanted him to go walkabout and learn to be a man. This was a problem for Sarah, who regarded the boy as her son.
I thought the series had a comic book feel to it. The ways shots were framed and held, the way the actors performed, the clearly fake horseback riding scenes, the frequent backlit silhouettes of iconic images and moments – they all felt like they belonged on the pages of a graphic novel. Other scenes were more typically done. The bombing damage to Darwin, the scenes in the water tower, the romance between Sarah and Drover.
Young Brandon Walters was absolutely fantastic in this. He deserved the awards he took home 15 years ago for Australia. Making him the central character in Faraway Downs was a brilliant move. It changed the mood and message of the series to be about the Aboriginal understanding of the world, the land, and story.
I saw Australia in 2008, but I barely remember it. I remember it had Nicole Kidman, but the images and the story were long lost. The story made longer and divided into six parts created a whole new experience to me. This series stands on its own and requires no previous knowledge to understand and watch.
If you have seen this one, please share your comments below. 🙂