London Australian Film Festival 2011: ‘Red Dog’


Last week I was fortunate enough to attend the opening gala of this year’s London Australian Film Festival. The festival opened with the UK premiere of Red Dog (2011) with an introduction from the film’s producer Nelson Woss. Red Dog tells the delightful and heart-warming legendary tale of a dog that roamed the Australian North-West in the 1970s, stories still told by Australians of that region today.

Set in the small mining community of Dampier, the film recounts the famous legends of Red Dog’s adventures in a series of personal accounts delivered with a truly talented cast who combine wit and Aussie humour. The subject matters runs the risk of sentimentality, becoming just another saccharine film about a dog; amazingly it completely avoids that. Balancing humour with a sense of nostalgia, even those who hate ‘dog movies’ won’t be able to resist its charm.

Red Dog is based on the novella by Louis de Bernières (Captain Corelli’s Mandolin) and stars Noah Taylor (Vanilla Sky [2001], Charlie and the Chocolate Factory [2005]) and Josh Lucas (The Lincoln Lawyer [2011]). The cast, including Red Dog, (Koko, who incidentally is owned by Nelson Woss), really make this film. The cast succinctly evoke the charm and challenges of a small mining community’s life, stressing the spirit of “all for one, one for all.”

The backdrop is superbly filmed with beautiful shots of open dusty roads and the expansive barren landscape. The intimate scenes of bars and Dongas, which De Bernières glossary informs us are small housing units used in such mining communities, supply a wonderful setting for the bawdy Aussie humour and lust for life.

Red Dog is a fine portrait of a disenfranchised mining community, a rarely seen side of Australia’s community. For some the sentimentalism will be too much to stomach, but ultimately director Kriv Stenders strikes the right balance.

Joe Walsh