The Tracker (2002)

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Released 20-Aug-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Theatrical Trailer
Featurette-Awards & Festivals (4) + Notes
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Featurette-Peter Coad
Music Video-Alien Invasion
Trailer-Walkabout; Till Human Voices Wake Us; Nine Queens
Trailer-Samsara; Spirited Away; Walking On Water
Easter Egg-Trailer - Alexandera's Project
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 94:06 (Case: 98)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (80:59) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Rolf de Heer

Madman Entertainment
Starring David Gulpilil
Gary Sweet
Damon Gameau
Grant Page
Noel Wilton
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI ? Music Graham Tardif
Rolf de Heer
Archie Roach

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

"All men choose the path they walk."

    Four men are on the trail of a killer...perhaps. If you run, then you must be guilty, right? This is something that the group, lead by The Fanatic would probably assume. Accused by the authorities of the murder of a white woman, an aboriginal man is on the run with the law relentlessly pursuing him. The group is made up of The Fanatic, a man obsessed with what is right, with what he perceives as being right and the natural order of things; The Veteran, a man who has seen it all many times before and knows the probable outcome of the expedition; The Follower, a young law enforcer on his first hunt for an accused man in the isolated inland environment of outback Australia, and; The Tracker, an experienced aboriginal tracker who leads the group after The Fugitive.

    Even though The Tracker leads the group, he is in fact at the bottom of the pecking order and he is looked down upon, both figuratively and literally, by the others in the group. As they ride behind, The Tracker walks on foot, meticulously retracing The Fugitive's steps who he thinks might be half a day ahead. The Follower is sceptical of The Tracker's ability and motivation - after all, it is an aboriginal the group is hunting and it is an aboriginal  who leads them. Surely this is a conflict of interest. But The Tracker proclaims his dedication to the task and The Fanatic, despite his ever-increasing hostility and rage, firmly believes that The Tracker is indeed on the real trail of The Fugitive. But as the group continues on, things begin to go awry with The Tracker more within his element, The Fugitive no more closer to capture, and The Fanatic more hostile and determined than ever. The Fugitive will be captured and brought to justice at all costs. D*** the loss of horses and provisions, d*** the silent spear attacks from foes unseen, d*** the stubborn Tracker who dares to stand before me in defiance. D*** it all for I will see that justice is served and I will be the one to do it.

    The Fanatic is right. Justice will be done. Justice may not always be swift, but it is sure...and it will come.

    I am not a purveyor of political correctness, nor am I a willing consumer of same. So it was with some level of trepidation that I took on the job of reviewing this title. Perhaps the pressure was from within, imagined by myself and made manifest in my brain. It was an almost dread that I wouldn't like this film, would respond to it as such and be criticized as being for being anti-aboriginal, anti-black, anti-indigenous...whatever. So, the closer to doing this review I came, the more I thought, 'What if I don't like it? What if I don't like it...? What then?'. I needn't have worried. As soon as I sat down and pressed 'Play', there were no preconceptions in my head at all and this was about reviewing a film, that's it. I was free to view the film on its own merits and judge it accordingly. In my defense, this is what I always do, and I've taken it for granted that this is the order of things. But in this case, the awareness of indigenous issues, the awareness of the decade-long reign of political correctness and my own perhaps misguided fears that this film would be expected to be applauded for the sole reasons of its subject matter and because of the issues relating to the injustice done to indigenous populations of this (and many other) countries. In reality, this film doesn't need to be applauded because of these things, and if this movie was indeed a load of garbage I truthfully would tell you so. It is not.

    Director Rolf de Heer has again done a fine job of taking us on a trip to somewhere where we may not have been before and putting us in predicaments that we might have not entertained. This is similar to what he did with the film Bad Boy Bubby in 1993, where he took us on a trip into a world unfamiliar to us and revealed it. This is perhaps too confronting to some as Bad Boy Bubby would demonstrate, but ultimately rewarding for those who are willing to go on the journey. Director Rolf de Heer does indeed take us on a trip. Many have complained that this film is slow. In fact, a friend who saw this film on video recently described how he turned it off after the first 10 minutes, proclaiming, 'Nothing happened. All they did was walk around while some guy sang'. If you are one for instant gratification then this probably isn't the film for you. However, if you like to see a story revealed in a well conceived and deliberate manner that you might find this film quite rewarding.

    This film has been in the making for more than a decade with the film's director having written this film years ago. In fact, Rolf had originally intended for Grant Page to be cast as The Fanatic, but as the years went by, the director discovered someone who could fill the role of The Fanatic and make it something special, and that person was Gary Sweet. Veteran of various film and television projects over the years in Australia, Gary came to the attention of the director when he saw Gary having a cigarette outside a venue and the image that came across was one so natural and stripped of hype that the director couldn't help but be attracted to the actor for the supporting role in his new film. When approached to play the part of The Fanatic, Gary jumped at the chance. Gary's previous roles include those of Christopher Dale Flannery in the fantastic mini-series Blue Murder (1995) and performances in the popular ABC series Police Rescue as well as the early 80s mini-series Bodyline where Gary played the role of Donald Bradman. In this film, Gary Sweet is almost unrecognizable and this helps deflect any preconceptions of him as it allows the actor to create the character of The Fanatic quite well. A splendid performance from a quality performer.

    The choice to pick David Gulpilil for the role as The Tracker was inspired, perhaps even predestined as I cannot think of anyone more suited to the role of The Tracker than David. While David has been featured in films since 1971 and has been seen in productions such as Mad Dog Morgan in 1976, The Right Stuff in 1983 and Rabbit-Proof Fence in 2002, The Tracker would become David's first lead role and one that he would handle very well. David manages to capture the grace and dignity that personifies the character of The Tracker in the film. He has a poise and presence that one sees in some other indigenous races that is hard to describe. It is characterized as stature, a 'stand up tall'  look and attitude, pride, presence and probably overall, knowledge. All these things you can see in his performance during this film as a character that you shouldn't underestimate. This underestimation personifies an attitude to indigenous races that western civilization has embraced and propagated over the centuries. Sure, we've good at taking over countries, subjugating and assimilating their cultures and eventually eradicating the differences as this is what western civilization does best, but this is sad as we've equated power and technological achievement to civilization. Our mistake, and one that the character of The Tracker is more than capable of pointing out to us.

    Rounding out the main cast is Damon Gameau as The Follower, Grant Page as The Veteran and Noel Wilton as The Fugitive. As with The Tracker and The Fanatic, these characters are very important to the film and their performances are very much up to the task. Damon brings much to the role as The Follower with a performance that captures the inexperience and vulnerability of someone so young being met with the almost impossibly steep learning curve that is the Australian outback. Damon's acting credits had been fairly few and he appropriately used this 'greenness' to his advantage as the 'greenhorn' on the trek and it worked a treat. As stated before, Grant Page was originally considered for the role as The Fanatic, but since a decade had passed from the conception of the film to its eventual production, the Fanatic role went to Gary Sweet. Still, the role of The Veteran is quite important as it sets a sort of equilibrium between the characters of The Fanatic and The Follower. While experienced as a stunt co-ordinator, Grant paces his role as the almost quiet observer that has seen this path trodden many times before and perhaps even knows the outcome. While we don't see Noel Wilton on screen for long, it is hard to have a hunt for a fugitive without an actual fugitive and this role is taken on quite well by Noel. All of the actors here make their characters their own and thankfully the end result is a film that Australia can be very proud of.

    Leave at the door all your thoughts on the whole aboriginal question in respect to land rights, the 'stolen generation' and reconciliation. Drop all of it, clear your mind and have a look at this film. At the end you get the impression that it's not about aboriginal land rights or indeed aboriginal rights in general. Instead, consider the issues of human rights and our obligation, nay our duty, to respect each other as equals; brothers and sisters. The characters in this film come from all sides, from the ones that refuse to respect another's rights to the ones who learn to respect them. We can only hope that we can count ourselves amongst the latter group. An important and interesting film that really does reward the viewer who isn't in for the 'quick fix'. This isn't a long haul with a running time of just over 90 minutes, but the film does run at a deliberate pace and it rewards in a more traditional manner than one might imagine. Drop the preconceptions and have a look. Recommended.

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Transfer Quality


    The video transfer we have on offer is quite good with a very viewable image throughout, though there are some niggling flaws.

    This film is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The image on this DVD is quite reasonable with a good measure of clarity throughout. I did notice some very slight focus issues at the edges of the image during some portions of the film, but these could have been due to the photographic process used or indeed intended by the director. In either case, this very slight softness is far from distracting and is only visible from time to time. Much of this film takes place during daylight hours, but there are a couple of key scenes which take place during the dark and for the most part, shadow detail is reasonable. Sometimes during some of the darker scenes, the blacks take on the appearance of a brownish colour and exhibit a quite pronounced level of film grain, but again, this is only visible from time to time and is not a huge problem. Low level noise didn't cause any real problems.

    Colour is quite important to the conveying of this story, which uses the landscape as the canvas the story is drawn upon. Appropriately, the colours are quite natural throughout the film with the only exaggeration seen during some of Peter Coad's paintings which are seen during the film during some of the intense violence that takes place during the film. The portrayal of colour on this DVD is very natural and accurate with an appropriately vibrant image on offer when required.

    There is some slight MPEG pixelization visible from time to time during this presentation with examples visible at 6:19 during the camp scene as well as at 26:27. Aliasing is visible quite a bit during this feature, but because of the almost complete absence of straight lines, it isn't as pronounced as it could have been. Still, it is visible during any scene where thin branches and foliage are seen, such as at 58:48. Continual fugitive from justice edge enhancement remains at large, but he has been spotted at 8:02 around The Tracker as well as at other places throughout the film. The print used is quite clean with only the occasional nick and fleck visible.

    There are no subtitle options on this disc.

    This disc is RSDL formatted with the layer change at 80:59. This change is quite obvious with the image frozen in time for longer that I've come to expect on a recent disc played on a current player. Perhaps some machines with large buffer memories may render this change invisible, but I spotted it instantly and found it to be fairly disruptive.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     The audio on offer is quite good and presents a reasonable level of clarity throughout.

    There are 2 audio options available on this disc, these being a English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix as well as an English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded mix.

    For the most part, the dialogue quality is good with the spoken word clearly audible when intended by the director. I say this because there are times when the dialogue is purposely reduced and eclipsed by either the environment of the scene or more commonly the songs as sung by Archie Roach, as well as times where the characters are far from the viewer (the camera) and the audio is taken from the camera's location rather than miked by radio and transmitted to the sound engineer. This is a very interesting use of sound and dialogue which reminded me of Terrence Malick's 1978 classic Days of Heaven which used similar techniques. There was a point in the film (29:19) where The Fanatic calls The Tracker a monkey. When he utters the line ' monkey' this is quite obviously looped in post production yet it looks as though this is actually what actor Gary Sweet is saying. The audio sync seemed quite reasonable with no major problems of note.

    The creation of the music for this film took a three pronged approach. Director Rolf de Heer wrote the lyrics for the film's songs. The music was then written by Graham Tardif and finally singer Archie Roach took on the vocal and arrangement duties. While I think that it was appropriate to have a vocalist of aboriginal heritage lending his voice to the songs of the film, I did find it a bit odd at times to hear modern music featuring modern instruments in the soundtrack of a film that is set in 1922. I've never been a real fan of 'modern' soundtracks such as those used in films such as Ladyhawk, Highlander and Dune. Granted, these are decidedly 80s examples, an era where this practice was pervasive, but you get the picture. Thankfully, the music heard during this film isn't as glaringly obvious as the above examples are, but it was something that at times distracted me and brought me away from the film. I would have preferred perhaps a simple acoustic mix without the use of dated electric instruments that don't fit the time in which this film is set. The songs heard during the film (arrangements aside) do add to the story of the film and do suit the goings-on on screen. I just thought that an acoustic soundtrack might have served the film better. As another reviewer is fond of saying, your mileage may vary, but at least you know what to expect.

    While we have a full Dolby Digital 5.1 track available, for the most part this film presents the sound in a fairly front oriented fashion with the surrounds taking on an expected supporting role. Other than the occasional environmental sound, the rears are mostly used in an atmospheric fashion.

    The subwoofer is used to support mostly the music from the film and the occasional gun shot. Other than these two things, the subwoofer was not overtly used during the feature.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    We have quite a bit of supplementary material on offer here.


    After the usual copyright warnings and distributor's logos, we are taken to the disc's Main Menu which offers us the following:     The Main Menu is presented with audio from the film's soundtrack in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded. This and all the other menus found on the disc feature 16x9 enhancement.

    Selecting the Explore Extras icon presents us with the following options:

Theatrical Trailer   -   2:05

    This is very much in the vein of the film, so you don't get the usual exaggerated conglomeration of footage that can at times make a film look totally different from what it actually is. Watching this trailer will give a fairly accurate impression as to what one should expect from the film. This is offered in 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. Audio is in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded.

Out-Takes   -   14:40   (with director's introduction and commentary)

    Actor David Gulpilil enjoys a laugh, even at the expense of himself. When director Rolf de Heer heard some hysterical laughing coming from David's room during principal photography, he found that David had been watching the rushes (the day's filmed scenes) on videotape in his room and was particularly struck by his own mistakes and bloopers. David made Rolf promise that when the film was finished, he would give him a copy of all his mistakes so he could have a laugh later. The film's director agreed and this section is a gift to David.

1. "He's not half a day ahead, we're half a day behind".

    Poor David couldn't get this part right, and it drove him (and the rest of the cast) mad. Try as he might, it would just be plain wrong. Here it is in all its cringeworthy glory.

2. "We'd better keep goin' now, Boss. That tribe back there...".

    That bloody tribe indeed. Another part where David just couldn't get the words out no matter how much he tried.

3. "We nearly had him, eh Boss?"

    The light is fading, Gary Sweet is tied to a tree and if they don't get this one down soon, they'll have to come back the next day and do it all again. With the pressure on, David performs.

4. The Latin last rites

    And just when you think that what you've seen personifies the abilities of David Gulpilil, out comes this startling piece of dialogue, captured on the first take. You almost become guilty of the same sin that traps The Fanatic in the film: underestimation. This dispels that underestimation quite quickly.

5. Intro to the Laugh Tracks

    This section shows just how hard it can be to laugh on key, over and over again. Sometimes though, it can be quite easy when the mood gets you.

6. Montage of laughs throughout the film

    Although this film takes a fairly sombre and serious tone, laughter plays a large part of the storytelling and this is a collage of laughs as seen during the film.

7. Intro to the actor's dedication

    This was a difficult movie to film. The conditions were rugged, the acting sometimes physical and all the time the cast gave it their all. You can tell by the end product. Here we see to some extent what the actors had to go through to bring us their performances and make the story come to life.

    This above feature is not divided into chapters as the numbered sections may lead you to believe. I've put those in to break up the different portions of this extra so as to convey what each is about. This section is presented full frame with the footage from the film being in 2.35:1 without 16x9 enhancement. Audio is in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded.

Awards & Festivals   -   5 Pages

    This section offers a list of the various awards that this film had been nominated for and in many cases, actually won. Pages 2, 3 and 5 are text based with many awards listed. Pages 1 and 4 have the same, but also feature footage of various film festivals and award ceremonies around the world. These sections of footage are presented full frame with audio in Dolby Digital 2.0.

Venice International Film Festival 2002   -   4:11

    The cast and crew are in Venice where the film has won the SIGNIS Award - Honourable Mention and Director Rolf de Heer has been nominated for the Golden Lion. And actor David Gulpilil is all dressed up with everywhere to go.

World Premier, Adelaide Festival of Arts 2002   -   12:15

    Here we have the main cast and the director introduced by film critic David Stratton. David conducts a short interview with the film's director on stage before the screening of the film. There is also an interview with actor Gary Sweet here as well. Also featured is some of singer Archie Roach's performance at the premiere where the songs for the film were performed live in place of the normal  music soundtrack of the film.

Opening Night Film, Melbourne International Film Festival 2002   -   6:56

    Presented with a fairly poor quality image, this footage is from the opening night at the Melbourne festival and features the red carpet walk-ups by the stars as well as speeches from the cast and the Director.

IF Awards 2002   -   8:06

    The Tracker wins a swag of gongs at this awards night with the presentations made by the likes of Eric Bana, David Stratton, Margaret Pomeranz  and John Safran. Unfortunately, David Gulpilil couldn't be with us tonight, but he recorded this message. This bit alone is the best of these highlights. Very funny, and yes, David, you deserve it.

Interview   -   6:35

    Here, film critic David Stratton interviews Director Rolf de Heer about his project The Tracker for the SBS Movie Show. We only have the Director on screen during this interview with David Stratton heard off screen. The audio for this interview is fairly ordinary with Rolf's voice coming from the left speaker and the interviewer's coming from the front. Listening to this in Pro Logic only makes it worse and I recommend using straight 2 channel only.


    These are text based biographies for the main contributors to the production of the film. A couple of the entries have selectable icons that lead to various supplementary materials. These are for:

Peter Coad Featurette   -   15:57

    While struggling with how to depict various scenes in the film, especially those of intense violence and brutality, Director Rolf de Heer called on artist Peter Coad to illustrate various scenes in the film to both augment and stand in for some of the film's most important scenes. In the process of his work, the artist displays an immense amount of respect towards the subject matter and the indigenous people whose life and history he is helping to convey. A very interesting look at how the art we see in the film came to be. Presented full frame with audio in Dolby Digital 2.0.

The Soundtrack

    This section offers the images from the covers of the Archie Roach album Sensual Being as well as the soundtrack album for the film The Tracker. Selectable from this menu is a video by Archie Roach for the song Alien Invasion from the Sensual Being album.

Alien Invasion - Music Video by Archie Roach   -   4:41

    This song has nothing to do with the film and is only included because of the involvement of Archie Roach with the score to the film. A modern clip with Archie looking up from under water to a strange collection of invaders (white folk). It covers the broad topic of land rights and white settlement. It is a shame that we didn't have some music from the film itself such as some of the live performances as heard during the film's premiere. Presented in 1.85:1 with 16x9 enhancement. Audio is in Dolby Digital 2.0.

Madman Propaganda  -  Theatrical Trailers

    This is a collection of trailers for titles being made available by Madman Cinema.

Walkabout   -   :31

    This is really a teaser trailer for an early film (1971) that featured actor David Gulpilil. This doesn't shed much light on the subject of the film, but the announcer promises that we'll see something never before seen in the history of cinema, or something like that. Big claim. Presented in 1.85:1 without 16x9 enhancement. Audio is in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

Till Human Voices Wake Us   -   2:03

    Trailer for the Guy Pierce / Helena Bonham Carter film. It is reported that the disc for this film distributed by Madman Cinema will actually be a 2 disc set with both the U.S. edited version along with the original longer cut seen outside the U.S. Presented in 2.35:1 without 16x9 enhancement and with audio in Dolby Digital 2.0.

Nine Queens   -   1:50

    Trailer for a film about 2 men planning the heist of a lifetime. You know everything won't go according to plan. Presented in 1.85:1 without 16x9 enhancement and audio in Dolby Digital 2.0.

Samsara   -   2:16

    Set in the Himalayas, this looks to be a very well shot and interesting love story about self control, dedication and love. The photography looks wonderful and if the music in the trailer is indeed from the film which is by composer Cyril Morin, then the music sounds equally wonderful. Would love to see this film. Presented in 1.85:1 without 16x9 enhancement and with audio in Dolby Digital 2.0.

Spirited Away   -   2:18

    Interesting trailer for an animated tale of a girl who is somehow stranded in a shadow ghost world populated by fantastic beings. Presented by the Walt Disney Studios, this film has become very popular and looks quite interesting for those interested in both mainstream animation as well as manga animation. Presented in 1.85:1 without 16x9 enhancement and with audio in Dolby Digital 2.0.

Walking on Water   -   2:26

    Trailer for the Australian film staring rapid up-and-comer Vince Colosimo and looks to cover the life, loves and tribulations of a group of young people. A much awarded film that competed in several categories head-to-head with The Tracker in 2002. Presented in 1.85:1 without 16x9 enhancement and with audio in Dolby Digital 2.0.

Easter Egg  -  Theatrical Trailer - Alexandra's Project   -  2:14

    Security mad husband Gary Sweet has been sent away by his wife for the day with the promise of a surprise to follow. What is the surprise? Can't wait to find out. This is the trailer for the next Rolf de Heer film which was completed in 2003. This hidden trailer (found on the last page of the Director's biography) is presented in 1.85:1, is 16x9 enhanced and features audio in Dolby Digital 2.0.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     At this minute, the Region 4 disc is the only one available worldwide, making ours the best (and only) version.


     Set at a deliberate pace, The Tracker is one of those slow burns that keeps you attentive to the very last. Although many may find this film slow, it isn't and is very rewarding for the viewer with a little patience. An excellent study into the motivations of man and a fascinating look at what parts of this country might have been like at the start of the 20th century. This film features some fine performances, especially those from Gary Sweet in the role of his life and the wonderful David Gulpilil who dominates the screen. Quality filmmaking that deserves all the accolades heaped upon it.

     The video transfer is quite reasonable although it does suffer from some niggling flaws.

     The audio is good and serves the film well.

     The extras are fairly comprehensive, albeit with no audio commentary available, which would have been nice. Never mind, as there is plenty of supplementary material here.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Sean Bradford (There is no bio.)
Thursday, April 10, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DVD RA-61, using S-Video output
DisplayBeko TRW 325 / 32 SFT 10 76cm (32") 16x9. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V2090
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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