Matt Long is tired of what he calls a “disproportionate amount” of negative indigenous stories in the media.

“That’s obviously a real aspect that needs to be explored in film and other media,” the director/producer and owner of Goodoil Films told IF, “I just thought it would be nice to try and balance it out.”

His contribution is Running to America. A one-hour documentary, it follows former world champion Rob de Castella’s indigenous marathon project as he trains four young indigenous men to run the world’s most famous race – the New York City marathon.

Inspired by his brother, who, despite being a “total non-runner” ran the marathon, Long described Running to America not as a sport film but as both a quest and a metaphor.

“They’ve all got this common goal but where it gets interesting is the challenges in their own lives that they come up against along the way.”

These challenges range from issues with alcohol, injury, isolation and even family tragedy, providing speed bumps for the four young men on their way to New York.

“In terms of the Aboriginal aspect of it,” Long adds, “you can interpret it as being a metaphor for them facing so many more challenges in their lives than what your average Australian comes up against.”

The film itself faced its own fair share of difficulties before making it to the screen including lobbying government, grant applications, and a limited budget – the latter of which saw Long and his crew resorting to extreme measures in order to get shots, including the first of the film: a long shot of one of the boys, Caleb Hart, running through the desert.

Unable to afford a helicopter Long negotiated his way into a hot air balloon with a couple of German tourists on a champagne breakfast.

“We dragged poor Caleb out of bed at four o’clock in the morning and when the balloon went up he said 'where do you want me to run?' and we were like 'just follow the balloon!' So he’s just madly trying to keep up with wherever the balloon was.”

For all its difficulties, Long believes the project was life-changing for the young men involved, describing the hard work and sense of achievement as being empowering.

“For anyone, running a marathon is one of the most difficult things you can do. For these four young indigenous men it takes it to a whole new level. Just getting to the starting line was a marathon,” said de Castella who this year saw eleven young indigenous men and women take part in the marathon.

Running to America was recently shown on ABC1. Check out the trailer here.

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