The Flood is writer-director Victoria Wharfe McIntyre’s debut feature film and it is terrific that she has chosen to feature two strong lead Indigenous characters who are resilient and determined to fight for their rights and survival. The movie was filmed in McIntyre’s home town of Kangaroo Valley in NSW, in collaboration with people from the local Yuin nation, and is styled as an Australian western, borrowing from modern classics with mixed success.
Alexis Lane and Shaka Cook are excellent in their portrayals of Jarah and Waru, who meet and fall in love on an Aboriginal mission but are separated from each other and their daughter Binda when Waru decides to sign up for military service.
A string of injustices and atrocities follow – including the loss of Binda (Simone Landers) – and these transform Jarah into a vengeful, sharp-shooting heroine intent on killing all who have caused her pain.
If this country is ever to atone for its historic horrors it must begin with telling true stories of the oppression, murder, rape and theft that took place from the very beginning of colonisation, and The Flood depicts the suffering of Aboriginal people on remote missions, as well as the unequal treatment of Aboriginal soldiers.
It also shows how vigilantes slaughtered groups of men, women and children without trial. Dean Kyrwood plays Shamus Mackay, the son of a cattle farm owner who forms a “black tracking” posse to take revenge for his murdered brother, while Brendan Bacon’s character Tick makes the flesh crawl with his treatment of Aboriginal women. Jarah does find an ally in white woman Pam (Karen Garnsey), who helps the local indigenous people in their conflict with their oppressors.
Kangaroo Valley has wonderful native forests and beautiful river systems, and Kevin Scott’s sensual cinematography captures the magnificence of the landscape before the devastating 2020 bushfires. Petra Salsjo’s score is often dramatic and impressive, reminiscent of some Hollywood classics, and it complements the action, emotions and imagery.
However, The Flood incorporates too many snippets of social commentary, symbolism, flashbacks and references to Aboriginal spirituality which are not developed and do not enrich the story and relationship of Jarah and Waru. There are homages to westerns throughout – including the final shoot-out – but the film could have done with a little more focus on the two heroes and less on playing with style and the western genre.