THE DROVER’S WIFE: THE LEGEND OF MOLLY JOHNSON. A fierce, feminist revenge western, The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson is visionary artist Leah Purcell’s debut feature film as writer and director and she also stars in the film as Molly Johnson. A cinematic reimagining of her acclaimed play and of Henry Lawson’s classic 19th century short story, this searing Australian Western asks: how far do you go to protect the ones you love?
Set in 1893 on an isolated property in the Australian Alpine Country of the Snowy Mountains, a heavily pregnant Molly Johnson has a secret she must keep buried. While her drover husband is away, she and her children struggle to survive. Molly finds herself in a desperate situation and is confronted by a fugitive Aboriginal man, Yadaka, on her property. Unbeknownst to Molly, Yadaka is a wanted man who will bring undesired attention. When new town up-holder of law, Nate Clintoff, learns Molly’s drover husband is missing and sends a trooper out to her property to investigate, a chain of ruinous events is triggered.
The first Australian feature film with an Indigenous woman writing, directing and performing the lead role, The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson brings a powerful female gaze to the (traditionally male) Western. Expressing what it means to be black, Purcell casts an eye on feminist, Indigenous and First Nation issues, through a narrative which has at its core a story of love, protection and the survival of family.
Bringing with it the mythology of generational Aboriginal storytelling, the film is inspired by Purcell’s personal stories and incorporates her own lived experience and those of her ancestors. A proud Goa-Gungarri-Wakka Wakka Murri woman from Queensland, Australia, Purcell is an internationally acclaimed playwright, screenwriter, director, novelist and actor and a cultural icon and activist. Her work stands at the forefront of the Black and Indigenous cultural renaissance and protest movement sweeping Australia and the world.