Stephen Johnson’s ‘High Ground’ to premiere in Berlin

Jacob Junior Nayinggul and Simon Baker in ‘High Ground.’

Stephen Johnson’s Aussie Western High Ground will have its world premiere in the Berlinale Special screenings section of the Berlin International Film Festival.

Inspired by true events and scripted by Chris Anastassiades, the 1930s-set action thriller stars Simon Baker, Callan Mulvey, Jack Thompson, Aaron Pedersen and newcomer Jacob Junior Nayinggul.

Baker plays Travis, a bounty hunter and former soldier who enlists the help of Gutjuk (Nayinggul) a young Aboriginal orphan, to track down the most dangerous outlaw in the Territory – his uncle. During the manhunt a secret is revealed which ultimately pits them against each other.

Thompson is Moran, the head of the police outpost, with Mulvey as Ambrose, a police officer who fought with Travis in World War One, and Petersen as a lethal black tracker from Queensland.

The cast also includes Caren Pistorious as Claire, the mission manager and teacher, Ryan Corr as Braddock, a priest who is Claire’s brother, John Brumpton, David Field and Andy McPhee.

Shot in Kakadu Park and Arnhem Land, the film was produced by Maggie Miles, Yothu Yindi co-founder Witiyana Marika, Johnson, David Jowsey and Greer Simpkin.

According to the festival, the film “pays homage to a territory (now strongly compromised) and to the notion that places are filled with a soul.”

Miles said she is “so proud” while giving kudos to the “communities and traditional owners who made this film happen.”

Screen Australia provided major production investment with support from Maxo Studios, Screen Territory, Film Victoria, Bunya Productions and Savage Films. Madman Entertainment will distribute in Australia/New Zealand.

The festival will be a dual showcase for Bunya Productions as the first two episodes of the second season of its Mystery Road and Matchbox Pictures and Dirty Pictures’ Stateless will have their world premieres at the sixth edition of the Berlinale Series.

In addition, Goalpost’s Dark Victory from writer-director Matthew Saville is among eight titles selected for the Co-Pro Series 2020, which seeks to link projects with international partners.

The festival runs from February 20-March 1. Some 20 titles will be featured in the Berlinale Special screenings. The line-up includes:

High Ground
by Stephen Maxwell Johnson
with Simon Baker, Jacob Junior Nayinggul, Jack Thompson, Callan Mulvey, Witiyana Marika, Esmerelda Marimowa
World premiere

Sa-nyang-eui-si-gan (Time to Hunt)
Republic of Korea
by Yoon Sung-hyun
with Lee Je-hoon, Ahn Jae-hong, Choi Woo-shik, Park Jeong-min, Park Hae-soo
World premiere

The American Sector
by Courtney Stephens, Pacho Velez
World premiere / Documentary form

Golda Maria
by Patrick Sobelman, Hugo Sobelman
World premiere / Documentary form

Nomera (Numbers)
Ukraine / Poland / Czech Republic / France
by Oleg Sentsov in collaboration with Akhtem Seitablaiev
with Evhen Chernykov, Agatha Larionova, Oleksandr Begma, Maksym Devizorov, Iryna Mak