Australian Screen

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Wrong Side of the Road (1981)

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clip The police arrive education content clip 1

Original classification rating: M. This clip chosen to be PG

Clip description

The members of the band No Fixed Address leave for their gig. During their performance the police arrive.

Curator’s notes

For some of the bands involved in this film, Wrong Side of the Road offered them the first chance of recording their music. The arrival of the police at an Aboriginal dance function creates an antagonistic atmosphere, and the tension is sustained throughout the narrative. The filmmakers believe it is not an exaggeration of police harassment, but a true depiction of the relationship between Indigenous communities and the police.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This clip shows the members of the band No Fixed Address leaving a house and driving to a performance. They perform to a dancing, largely Indigenous audience, singing lyrics about being black and the need to ‘fight for your rights’. Police cars pull up outside the venue, a few people outside the hall disperse or re-enter the venue and the band plays on.

Educational value points

  • This clip, from the feature film Wrong Side of the Road provides an introduction to Bart Willoughby. Willoughby formed the band No Fixed Address at the Centre for Aboriginal Studies in Music (CASM) in 1978 and went on to perform with Goanna, Coloured Stone, Yothu Yindi and other artists. He later formed and fronted Mixed Relations. A singer, songwriter, screen composer, frontman, instrumentalist and teacher, the talented Willoughby has been a trailblazer for Aboriginal music.
  • This filmed performance, shot in a documentary style, gives a sense of the reggae influences on the band No Fixed Address. Reggae evolved in Jamaica in the 1960s from ska and bluebeat, and is characterised by a strong backbeat, dominant bass guitar, a rhythm guitar playing chords on the offbeat, and the use of horns such as the saxophone. Reggae lyrics often address broad social issues.
  • The song’s lyrics retain their relevance decades later, as dispossession, loss of identity and victimisation by police continue to be problems for many Indigenous people and communities. At the time of the film, music provided a powerful avenue through which these young musicians could communicate their beliefs, and although the bands are no longer still together and some of their members have died, young people are still hearing their music through the use of the film Wrong Side of the Road in many Australian secondary schools.
  • CASM, where No Fixed Address was formed, is widely recognised for its important role in maintaining and supporting Aboriginal culture and assisting musicians to find careers in the music industry. CASM also offers performances and workshops for students nationally and internationally, for example during Aboriginal Youth Cultural Week. Students at CASM play music from many different genres, reflecting the diversity of music in Indigenous communities.
  • Graeme Isaac, the film’s co-producer, has more than 25 years of experience in the Australian film industry, including credits as a writer, producer and script editor. He has particular skills in negotiating cross-cultural projects such as Wrong Side of the Road, and has a strong commitment to working with Aboriginal communities and filmmakers. His co-producer, Ned Lander, has been involved in the industry for approximately 30 years as a producer, director and writer. Both producers still feel a strong emotional involvement with the subjects and stories of Wrong Side of the Road.
  • Ned Lander, director of Wrong Side of the Road, shot the film to look like a documentary and this clip is an example of the loose, improvised feel that he created. Evidence that this is a scripted drama can be seen in the arrival of the police cars, which is shot from an elevated position, and the cut to the audience members outside the venue moving quietly away from potential trouble as the police lights flash in the night. The development of more portable cameras and sound equipment has enabled cameras to be brought into intimate places such as cars and music venues and also allows filmmakers a much greater ability to explore and express a greater range of perspectives.
  • Wrong Side of the Road crosses film genres. The scenes showing the band getting into the car have the energy of a road movie, while the words of the song shown in the clip suggest a political or protest film. The narrative is interwoven with musical performances and the film invites the audience to share some of the experiences of its subjects, highlighting the strength and complexity of Indigenous cultures.
  • Protest songs such as the one performed in this clip vocalise social concerns, raising listeners’ awareness of issues that the songwriters and performers think are important. Protest songs have been the hymns and anthems of many anti-establishment movements throughout history, used notably in opposition to the Vietnam War and in support of the American civil rights movements of the 1950s and 60s. Bart Willoughby sings a reminder to his audience that black people have become complacent and must remember to fight for their rights, for acceptance and for equal treatment by authorities.

This clip starts approximately 3 minutes into the feature.

A man packs his guitar into a station wagon already loaded with people, and the band members head off to their gig.
Man Here.
Woman What time we s’posed to be there?

At the gig, the band No Fixed Address is performing.

I am a black, black man
And I need to be recognised in this wretched world
For we are getting brainwashed
And the people forgetting ‘bout our rights
So all you black people, you gotta fight for your rights
You gotta fight for your rights.

There’s a lot of things that are trying to stop you
And that’s racism, and the cops
And the government which is buggered
But we have learnt within our soul, within our soul
And that is … the land controls you. You don’t control it
You don’t control it
Fight for your rights, fight for your rights.

Two police cars pull up outside the venue as the song continues inside.

I am a black, black man
And I need to be recognised in this wretched world
For we are getting brainwashed
And the people forgetting ‘bout our rights
So all you black people, you gotta fight for your rights
You’ve gotta fight for your rights.

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australianscreen is produced by the National Film and Sound Archive. By using the website you agree to comply with the terms and conditions described elsewhere on this site. The NFSA may amend the 'Conditions of Use’ from time to time without notice.

All materials on the site, including but not limited to text, video clips, audio clips, designs, logos, illustrations and still images, are protected by the Copyright Laws of Australia and international conventions.

When you access australianscreen you agree that:

  • You may retrieve materials for information only.
  • You may download materials for your personal use or for non-commercial educational purposes, but you must not publish them elsewhere or redistribute clips in any way.
  • You may embed the clip for non-commercial educational purposes including for use on a school intranet site or a school resource catalogue.
  • The National Film and Sound Archive’s permission must be sought to amend any information in the materials, unless otherwise stated in notices throughout the Site.

All other rights reserved.

ANY UNAUTHORISED USE OF MATERIAL ON THIS SITE MAY RESULT IN CIVIL AND CRIMINAL LIABILITY.

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