Review / ‘Cargo’ (MA) ***

THIS feature-length version of a seven-minute film screened at Tropfest in 2013 runs for 102 minutes.

Shot in SA, on locations ranging from desert country to Wilpena Pound, it tells a grim story about the aftermath of an apocalypse that is turning its victims into zombies.

Andy (English actor Martin Freeman) and Kay (the admirable Susie Porter) and not-yet-toddling Rosie are trying to flee the pandemic on a River Murray houseboat. In the nearby bush, young Aboriginal girl Thoomi is on a quest to cure her infected grandfather (David Gulpilil) by returning his departed soul.

This is a very serious horror film, directed by Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke (who also made the short version and wrote the screenplay for both iterations of the story). The title comes from the backpack in which Andy is carrying Rosie, who is indeed a precious cargo.

The plot confronts a deadline. Kay dies in a car crash as Andy tries to drive her and Rosie to a remote place that may be safe. Andy knows he has but 48 hours to find somewhere safe for Rosie before he too succumbs to the illness (visually manifested by an exudation through the skin with a viscosity and colour looking rather like honey but don’t let that deny its vicious effect).

One might quibble about discontinuities based on how “Cargo” mixes telling the story into geography and landscape. But its treatment of Aboriginal matters is respectful and affectionate. Simone Landers as Thoomi has potential. David Gulpilil is dignified in a role evoking his youthful 1971 debut in “Walkabout”. And the film is dedicated to the memory of Dr G Yunupingu who co-operated in developing the music.

At Dendy

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