Ghosting in the outback Noir


  • Greg Dolgopolov University of New South Wales (UNSW)



Outback Noir, Neo-Westerns, Waltzing Matilda, Red Hill, Mystery Road, Goldstone


Who was the ‘jolly swagman’ in Waltzing Matilda, Australia’s unofficial national anthem? In this essay I argue that the ghost of the swagman can be heard in a number of recent de-colonising crime narratives. Outback Noir is a relatively recent genre category that describes a new wave of Australian crime films that highlight Indigenous and white relations and take a revisionist approach to traditional history. These films often feature redemption stories that highlight effective collaborations between Indigenous and white policing practices. Uncovering a rural communities’ dark, repressed secrets in order to solve a current problem is a common trend in Outback Noir cinema. I examine Patrick Hughes’ 2010 film Red Hill as an early provocative example of Outback Noir and as modern reimaging of the Waltzing Matilda narrative with the swagman’s avenging ghost exposing the social fractures and corruption that are destroying rural communities. I argue that the Outback Noir genre with its focus on revenge-redemption narratives shapes the cultural dialogue around putting the ghosts of the colonial past to rest.

Author Biography

Greg Dolgopolov, University of New South Wales (UNSW)

Greg Dolgopolov teaches and researches at UNSW in video production, film festivals and film theory and literacy. His research interests include film festivals, short films, film distribution, Australian and post-Soviet cinema and the crime genre. He has written extensively on historical television detective serials, reality game shows and more. His research has been published in Social Semiotics, Senses of Cinema, Metro, Lumina, Real Time and Kinokultura. Greg is a documentary and drama filmmaker. The Really True History of the Ned Kelly Gang (2019) appeared at the Vladivostok International Film Festival. Greg is the artistic director of the Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival (2013 - ), Short+Sweet Film Festival (2017 - ), the Russian Resurrection Film Festival (2008 - ) and the internationally touring Best of Australian Shorts Festival.