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Touch the Sun – Top Enders (1988)


Alice (Bennendine Woods) and her mother Sue (Madeleine Blackwell) live in Darwin in the Northern Territory. Alice, about eleven years old, is a tough and independent kid. She and her mother have been on their own for some time now, so Alice is not impressed when her unreliable father Jack (John Jarratt) decides to return home. She runs away, teaming up with Mick (Donald Dale), an Aboriginal classmate from school who takes off to join his uncle on the rodeo route.

Mick and Alice go in search of the outstation where Mick’s tribal people are living, getting stuck in the desert en route, when the mini moke runs out of petrol. Mick discovers that his knowledge of the bush is not good enough for them to survive on. A search party is out looking for the children and Jack is desperate to find his daughter. It takes a car accident, which nearly costs Jack his life, for Alice to realise that her father really does love her.

Curator’s notes

This engaging story is set in a wonderful location, which stars throughout the production. In 1988 it was unusual for a film or telemovie to be shot in the Northern Territory and there was a huge amount of local support for Top Enders. A lovely looking production, it really captures the exotic frontier feel of Darwin and the Territory, as it explores human survival, and the challenges and rewards of family relationships and friendship through these two very different, but very likeable children Alice and Mick.

The chubby faced, bespectacled Alice is a most unlikely looking heroine, a delightful character whose serious and considered nature makes it even more surprising when she constantly breaks the ‘rules’ – driving, running away, hitchhiking, and stealing cars and boats.