In 2013, the story behind a feature film called CARGO, began with it being selected as a Tropfest finalist, while it was then still only a short film. This success then lead to a series of amazing breakthroughs;  describing the process, Ben Howling; one half of the creative team, says that “It felt like it took a long time with weird ebbs and flows, but when it went online, it then went viral and then next thing we get an American seeing it and they want us over there and wanted us to make the feature length version.” The Babadook’s producer Kristina Ceyton then came on board not long after and shooting in South Australia soon commenced.

The name of the film is at first curious, yet its context soon falls into place. With ‘place’ in this case, being The Great Southern Land, a mysterious, beautiful and dangerous location. The danger here taking the form of a virus passed on through human bite, and, though not explicit about where the virus originates from, the imagery of tree sap like extrusions from characters’ infected mouths and eyes do create create vivid and very organic styles of makeup effects. This virus then mutates, forming an apocalyptic world view; the white fear of the land is maybe mixed with white guilt.  Director Yolanda Ramke, the other half of the creative team, explains that Martin Freeman in the role of Andy, who, after being  infected by his wife Kay, played by Susie Porter is quite left literally holding their baby. She continues to say that “Freeman was not a Zombie fan, but was a dad in real life. So when he heard that he would have the  chance to portray both, together, he became very interested in the role ”.

Yolanda says that it is “The idea of people carrying something precious is very much present in the film, and that the journey taken by the father and child character is  what really carries the story forward.” In the interrogation and questioning whether  ‘White Guilt’ also helps  drive the story in CARGO, Yolanda explains it as “An awareness of those things that have been swept under the rug” and that  “It was absolutely on their minds. And that it just made sense to bring in Indigenous characters.” “We also felt that it would really  only be right, that if we were to make an Australian zombie film with an Indigenous voice represented in it, that we would consult with the Indigenous community from the outset.” Ben adds that, “Thematically we just loved the irony that colonials had come through and had been pushed to their limits, and now the tables were turning.”

On environment and Indigenous representation,  Natasha Wanganeen  who plays Josie, and is a Kauma/Narrunga/Ngaringeri/Noongar woman from South Australia country  says that for her “It was important that CARGO had the understanding and respect in place”  and that for her, “All the movies I have seen with Aboriginal people portray these characters as always struggling or  being under the thumb, Yolanda and Ben have bumped Indigenous people right up there.”  “This film is very brave, its Australian in itself, and what this movie proves, is that in being Indigenous you can only take so much. We are strong and we are still here.”

Newcomer Simone Landers is a standout young Aboriginal actor, who, in the role of Thoomi, brings much needed warmth and heart to what could otherwise be described as a grisly and grief stricken tale. Acting icon David Gulpilil  even appears here in CARGO in a small but significant role. When asked about how he got involved, Ben explains that “They reached out and I think he (Gulpilil) really liked the idea of the zombie and of coming in to play the Cleverman.” The mystery of David Gulpilil character is pivotal yet, subtle enough to be ambiguous, his presence lingers in a way  that only Gulpilil can linger.

The film is imbued with symbols of the evidence of fracking, helping to build the post-apocalyptic nuance and bring currency to the story. Shots of the Flinders Ranges from astonishing aerial views, giving it an other-worldly, isolated ,breathtaking, remote, and fertile substance. CARGO details a kind of environmental pay back that has a very current appeal. A great looking film, it’s Australian ‘infecteds’, and a different spin on the genre, as Ben chips in “We just scratched the surface on this, there is still a lot of scope.” When asked what 3 words could be used to describe CARGO: Natasha describes it as “Epic As Fuck,” Ben says that for him “Love Never Dies” and Yolanda concludes in a more sentimental tone “A Precious Cargo”The film is now screening across Australia in selected cinemas and is also streaming on American Netflix .

For more info, click here.