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The Land - Film Review (Sydney Underground Film Festival 2021)

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A character-driven drama
The Land follows the lives of its three main characters over a few tense days. Their lives quickly implode when an old friend returns from America and brings a long-held dark secret to the fore, that'll test their friendship. Starring Steve Rodgers and Anna Lise Phillips as husband and wife Jeremy and Neets, Cameron Stewart as Simon, plays their long time friend.

Enjoying its Australian premiere and 93 mins long, Rodgers and Stewart were also the screenwriters and the other half of a team of four producers. Acknowledgement is given to the Eora and Darkinung nations people who are the traditional custodians of the land on which the movie was filmed. It also pays respect to the Elders past and present, which extends to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from all across this Land.

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You'll find this and many other unique, eye-opening and entertaining independent films that SUFF (Sydney Underground Film Festival) is devoted to. Its aim is to change an ingrained culture of cinematic complacency and revitalise enthusiasm for cinema. It renews local interest in independent and experimental film as part of an international underground film culture.

Enjoy a cinematic trip without leaving home. SUFF features 30 feature films and documentaries, 20 Australian premieres, a special 40-year anniversary film, and more than 100 shorts across 9 themed sessions.

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Looming large is our Australian landscape, beautifully captured by internationally renowned photographer Ingvar Kenne, who is also the director of the film. The scenes take us to a time and place of good old Aussie getaways to the bush, and life on the land. However, the story goes beyond this natural beauty, to a burden that cuts deep.

Jeremy is busy primping and priming his home in readiness for his long lost friend Simon, whom he hasn't seen in years. His family watch in quiet amusement as he makes sure everything is in perfect order. Things go as planned, complete with an Aussie lamb on the barbie (BBQ), and entertainment from the kids. Simon is duly impressed by all that Jeremy has achieved. Perhaps it's just been a long time since the three friends have seen each other, but beneath the happy occasion, there's an undercurrent of discomfort. Simon wants to visit The Land, where they used to hang out, and Jeremy is reluctant at first. Eventually, the two friends take off for a few days on The Land.

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Out in the bush, stripped of distractions, with only each other for company, the facade peels away like an onion, and all that is unsaid comes to the fore. This is when you get to witness the bare bones of Jeremy and Simon's friendship as it gets yanked back and forth, like a tug-of-war. This is not a movie about redemption, but about dealing with long-held grievances, jealousies, and wrongs that run deep. It's about the characters admitting to their wrongdoing and finding their way out of their own darkness.

Well portrayed and very real, the ups and downs of the relationships are easily identifiable and relatable. Its shifting and changing gears have you roped in by the emotions, waiting in bated breath as to which way this relationship is heading. The three lead characters have a firm grip on harnessing that perfect mix of tension and unspoken words down pat, that has you hanging on their every move. This is a very real relationship drama with a strong Aussie flavour, well worth a watch.

Watch The Land online now at

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