High Ground: a movie review

January 18, 2021 by Henry Benjamin
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High Ground shows the audience the natural beauty of Arnhem Land, the ugliness of the treatment of Aborigines by some settlers and the kindness and understanding shown by others in the Top End in the early part of the 20th century.

In 1919, many Australians had returned from The Great War and set off to carve their future across Australia.

In Arnhem Land, a police operation goes wrong resulting in the massacre of most of the members of an Aboriginal tribe.

Travis (Simon Baker) rescues the six-year Gutjuk and takes him to a Christian mission where he finds a new home.

Twelve years later, Gutjuk, (Jacob Junior Nayinggul) sets out with Travis to find his uncle Baywara (Sean Mununggurr) who survived the massacre and now leads a wild mob, a renegade group of Indigenous warriors causing havoc along the frontier attacking and burning cattle stations, killing settlers.

Ambrose (Callan Mulvey) is another returned soldier who had asked Travis to track down Baywara.

Director/Producer  Stephen Maxwell Johnson said: “My aim has been to entertain and immerse an audience in an environment teeming with unexpected threats, and to take them on a ride through an aspect of Australia’s history that is under-represented, hopefully encouraging them to rethink the Australian story.

This story presents the view that there really is no such thing as ‘settlement’ it’s all about conquest and High Ground exposes the shameful truth of Australia’s history.


The camerawork of Andrew Commis made me wonder if David Attenborough had had a hand in being a consultant. Commis’s lens takes the viewer on a journey from the wild beauty of Arnhem Land to the wild behaviour of some of its human inhabitants.

Australian of the Year in 1979 Galarrwuy Yunupingu said: “High Ground is a both-ways film, First Nations and Balanda. It depicts a time of trouble in Australia; it honours our old heroes, reminds us of the past and the truth of our joint history in the country.

I hope that this film can play an important role in Australia’s national conversation towards a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution so that all our children will walk in both-worlds, never forgetting the past.”

Jacob Junior Nayinggul makes his movie debut in High Ground and he could be on the casting lists for many years to come.

The film took twenty years to make and also features Jack Thomson and Aaron Pederson.

High Ground: General release January 28



One Response to “High Ground: a movie review”
  1. John B. McCormick says:

    The situation in the Top End is interesting. I am a supporter of Mission Aviation Fellowship an International Christian based Charity founded by airman from the RNZAF and RAF. Today it operates aircraft in the third world in such places as some African countries, Asian countries like Bangladesh where they have seaplanes flying doctors, patients and supplies up and down the Ganges river system. In Africa they fly doctors, teachers, medical supplies around and operate as air Ambulance services. In Haiti after the big earthquake they had 4 planes flying supplies and medical staff where they were needed. They operate in other third world countries such as Papua New Guinea, East Timor and Australia. Yes they provide air services that both Labour and Liberal Governments won’t provide or pay for in the TOP END. Sounds like the movie is not telling the full story MAF operate more aircraft and charity staff in the TOP END than in any other third world country.
    MAF does not operate aircraft in New Zealand, Canada or the UK other than for fund raising events. All Australians need to look at yourselves closely.

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