Research Stream

People

Juanita Feros Ruys
The University of Sydney
Email

Grace Moore
The University of Melbourne
Email

Louise D’Arcens (2012-2017)
The University of Wollongong
Email

Connect

The Devil's Country

This film explores the way that memory and forgetting intersect in iconic places in the Australian landscape such as the Jenolan Caves west of Sydney. It uses colonial tales describing Australia as a demonic space as a pathway back to the bloody history of nineteenth-century colonial expansion into the country of the Wiradyuri beyond the Blue Mountains in NSW, Australia.

The Devil's Country still 600x300

Image: Still from The Devil's Country. Adric Watson. © Used with permission.

The documentary uses the medieval demonic to access historically suppressed events in Australia’s past. It focuses on the cavern known as the Devil’s Coach House in the Jenolan Caves west of Sydney to reveal how the application of gothic and satanic tropes to the Australian environment can retell history. It argues that supernatural tales featuring the Devil were used from the nineteenth century to explain the sense of unease in this physical location, masking the historical trauma that exists here. This was the Battle of Bathurst of 1824, in which the local Wiradyuri people came under government-ordered military attack following a declaration of martial law.

The film not only interviews academics on settler mentality and the praxis of colonialism, but also explores how those who immerse themselves in the alterity of the Australian landscape, such as ultrarunners, respond to it. The film then addresses the role that modern tourism plays in remembering and eliding events of historical significance, and the importance of a history of emotions for anchoring feelings back into their historical past. At the heart of the documentary sits the Wiradyuri experience of invasion and its aftermath, expressed through an interview with local elder, Dinawan Djirribang, who is a descendent of Windradyne, the legendary leader of the Aboriginal resistance in 1824. Looking forward hopefully to resolution, Dinawan reminds us that we need to tell these stories of our past honestly, and that keeping them hidden – unspoken, or disguised under fantastic satanic tales and touristic sensationalism – will prevent us from moving forward into healing.

Personnel

Juanita Feros Ruys (writer and producer), Cassandra Charlton (director), Gabe Watts (production manager), Bonnie May (editor), Adric Watson, Dane Howell (cinematographers), Matt Chang, Darian Woods (aerial cinematographers), Nathan Codner, Sam Davis (sound recordists), Tiernan Cross (composer), Dave Power (voiceover).

Interviewees

Grace Moore (The University of Melbourne), Louise D'Arcens (Macquarie University), Robert Dixon (The University of Sydney), Joe Ward (Manly Beach Running Club), Dinawan Djirribang (Bathurst Wiradyuri and Aboriginal Community Elders), Larissa Behrendt (The University of Technology, Sydney).

Entities involved in the filming process (equipment, locations, permissions)

The Digital Media Unit, The University of Sydney; National Parks and Wildlife Service; Manly Dam Rangers; Northern Beaches Council; Jenolan Caves Reserve Trust; NSW Office of Environment and Heritage; Charles Sturt University.

Events and screenings

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website may contain images, voices or names of deceased persons in photographs, film, audio recordings or printed material.

The footage was filmed on the traditional lands of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation and the Wiradyuri people.