|Directed by||Steven Vidler|
|Produced by||David Elfick
|Written by||Nick Enright|
|Music by||Steve Kilbey|
|Release date(s)||1 May 1997|
|Running time||90 / 103 minutes|
Blackrock is a 1997 Australian film directed by Steven Vidler and written by Nick Enright. Internationally, it is best remembered as the first prominent role of actor Heath Ledger.
Blackrock had its origin in 1992 as A Property of the Clan, a theatre-in-education piece written by Australian playwright Nick Enright (1950–2003). It was inspired by the real-life rape and murder of schoolgirl Leigh Leigh in Stockton near Newcastle, Australia on 3 November 1989. Enright subsequently developed it into another play, Blackrock (1995), directed by David Berthold for Sydney Theatre Company.
Blackrock is set in a fictional Australian beachside working-class suburb called Blackrock (not to be confused with the Melbourne suburb of Black Rock), where surfing is popular among youths like Jared (Laurence Breuls). He has his first serious girlfriend, Rachel (Jessica Napier), who comes from a much wealthier part of the city. One day Ricko (Simon Lyndon), a local surfing legend, returns from an eleven-month odyssey and Jared gives him a 'welcome home' party at the local surf club. Unsupervised and with alcohol freely available. Jared climbs a big rock and sees Toby (Heath Ledger) having consensual sex with Tracy (Bojana Novakovic). He later witnesses three males raping Tracy, yet he does nothing. The rapists leave her crying – but alive, on the beach and Jared too flees the scene and heads home. Later that night Rachel, arriving at the party late and looking for Jared, finds Tracy beaten to death on the beach.
The incident – and the community – are soon being scrutinised by news bulletins across the nation. The locals react differently: The surfers continue their lives as if nothing has happened; Tracy's grieving best friend Cherie (Rebecca Smart) resorts to violent behaviour; Rachel has to face the news that her brother is one of the accused. Jared is torn between the need to reveal what he saw for the sake of justice, and the desire to protect Toby and the other rapists in the name of 'mateship'. His silence eventually leads to the breakdown of his relationships, not only with Rachel, but also with his mother Diane (Linda Cropper), who has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Eventually Ricko confesses to Jared that he killed Tracy, but claims it was an accident – that she hit her head on a rock when he attempted to have sex with her. He asks Jared to back up his story to the police that they were together when the murder happened, despite the fact that Jared has already told the police he was alone at the time. When he goes back to talk to the police, they show him the photos of Tracy's battered body, and he reliases her injuries were not accidental. Jared finds Ricko at the beach and confronts him, and Ricko finally admits the truth. He found Tracy on the beach after the rape and she sought comfort from him and asked him to take her home. He agreed, but wanted to have sex with her first. She tried to fight him off and bit him in the process, which enraged him enough to beat her to death.
As Ricko finishes his confession the police arrive and he realises that Jared has turned him in. He attempts to escape but the police give chase and corner him on a cliff. Rather than go to jail – and ignoring Jared's screams of protest, he jumps to his death. In the weeks that follow, Jared's life collapses – he leaves home (despite finally finding out about his mothers illness and her recent mastectomy), buys Ricko's panel van and takes up residence in a stack of concrete pipes on a vacant block. He eventually confesses his role in the events to his mother, and the film ends with him joining Diane and Cherie in cleaning graffiti from Tracy's grave.
|Laurence Breuls||Jared Kirby|
|Linda Cropper||Diane Kirby|
|Jessica Napier||Rachel Ackland|
|Rebecca Smart||Cherie Milenko|
|Bojana Novakovic||Tracy Warner (as Boyana Novakovich)|
|Nichole Stewart||Leanne (as Nichole Avramidis)|
|Heath Ledger||Toby Ackland|
|Shayne Francis||Glenys Milenko|
|Jeanette Cronin||Lesley Warner|
|David Field||Ken Warner|
|Geoff Morrell||Stewart Ackland|
|Julie Haseler||Marian Ackland|
|Chris Haywood||Det. Sgt. Wilansky|
|Essie Davis||Det. Gilhooley|
|John Howard||Len Kirby|
Music was scored specially for the film by frontman of The Church, Steve Kilbey. Tim Powles played drums and Steve Kilbey's brother Russell Kilbey alos featured, along with singer Sandy Chick. In addition to the original score, the soundtrack featured songs by many bands both Australian and overseas.
Awards and nominations
- Australian Film Institute Awards
- Best Achievement in Cinematography – Martin McGrath (Nominated)
- Best Film – David Elfick (Nominated)
- Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role – Simon Lyndon (Nominated)
- Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role – Rebecca Smart (Nominated)
- Best Screenplay Adapted from Another Source – Nick Enright (Nominated)
Blackrock attracted controversies when it was screened in 1997, partly because of its fictionalisation of a real-life rape and murder without the consent of the victim's family. Leigh's family were vehemently opposed to the film, saying the filmmakers were "feasting on an unfortunate situation" and portraying Leigh negatively. In the film, Tracy wears a short skirt, tight-fitting top and high-heels to the party; in reality, Leigh wore ordinary shorts, a jumper and sand-shoes. Writer Robert Drewe stated the film was "asking a lot of Australian audiences to expunge reality from their memories". Leigh's family also objected to naming Leigh's character Tracy, as 'Tracey' was the name of Leigh's cousin and best friend. Blackrock was partially filmed in Stockton. The community of Stockton opposed filming in the area, stating the memories of Leigh's murder were still fresh and the details of the script were "too close for comfort". When film-maker's arrived in Stockton, locations that had previously been reserved were suddenly no longer available, and the local media treated them with hostility. Complaints about the film were exacerbated by the film makers denial that the film was specifically about Leigh, despite the choice of Stockton for filming.
I've never researched the Leigh Leigh story. I picked up the general outline of it and used its mythological shape as the starting point for the piece.—Nick Enright
Many locals from the town where the actual murder occurred were also hostile to the film, believing it to have portrayed the community in a slanderous way.
Blackrock grossed $1,136,983 at the box office in Australia.
The film received a limited release in Australia at independent cinemas and drive-in theatres, where it was well received in Australia. It was less enthusiastically received overseas where people were unfamiliar with the Leigh Leigh murder. It debuted to unfavourable reception at the Sundance Film Festival. Variety said the film "should score with kids the protagonists' age, but its soap-opera-style plotting and overwritten dialogue will limit wider acceptance". Variety did, however, praise several of the actors performances. Commenters noted that without prior knowledge of Leigh's tragedy, the film was judged as shallow and clichéd.
- "Blackrock". www.mcc.murdoch.edu.au. Murdoch University. Retrieved 24 June 2010.[dead link]
- Carrington, Kerry (24 July 1998). Who Killed Leigh Leigh? A story of shame and mateship in an Australian town. Sydney, New South Wales: Random House Australia. p. 154. ISBN 978-0-09-183708-2.
- Donna Lee Brien (October 2009). "Based on a True Story': The problem of the perception of biographical truth in narratives based on real lives". Textjournal.com.au. Retrieved 21 August 2014.
- Drewe, Robert (1 May 1997). "Flipside of the Anzac coin". The Sydney Morning Herald. p. 16.
- Coyle, Rebecca (2005). Reel tracks: Australian feature film music and cultural identities. John Libbey Publishing. pp. 23, 24. ISBN 978-0-86196-658-5. Retrieved 24 June 2010.
- Film Victoria – Australian Films at the Australian Box Office
- Rooney, David (9 February 1998). "Blackrock". Variety. Retrieved 21 August 2014.