‘Gravel Road’ wins Best Documentary Feature at Poppy Jasper International Film Festival

Desert Stars documentary
Courtesy of Flywire Films

“Gravel Road”, a film which tracks the world’s most remote Indigenous rock band, has taken home the Best Documentary Feature at the Poppy Jasper International Film Festival (PJIFF) in California.

The Aussie film was rewarded for its unique insight into Indigenous Australian culture and western rock ‘n’ roll music. It follows Desert Stars, a four-piece band, as they embark on their 2018 debut tour, travelling from their home in remote Tjuntjuntjara across the Western Desert.

“Gravel Road” was a Flywire Films production, directed by Tristan Pemberton and the Tjuntjuntjara community.

Pemberton said it was an honour to receive the award.

“The Desert Stars team have passionately worked on this project for the past three years to share the band’s music, life and culture,” he said. “It’s a powerful film that has been a privilege to make.”

“This is a community film. I really wish someone from [the] community could be here because it’s not just me who made the film. You’ve got a whole community involved in it,” he said in accepting the award.

Desert Stars’ lead singer, Jay Minning, said the award is a tribute to his people, their land and how strong the community is.

“It recognises our story and the decades of displacement we’ve gone through,” he added. “I’m proud of what this film and the Tjuntjuntjara community have achieved.”

Mattie Scariot, the festival’s program director, also paid tribute to the film and its team.

“We are proud and honoured to have this important film “Gravel Road” screen at the Poppy Jasper International Film Festival. We can’t wait to have Tristan, Jay Minning and the band back at our festival soon,” Scariot said.

The Desert Stars’ music reflects the artists’ profound connection to their vast culture. They’re described as “the last true nomads”, living in the world’s most remote community, and their songs explore hunter-gatherer life and their people’s survival of the British atomic testing at the infamous Maralinga site.

The PJIFF aims to showcase emerging independent films, offering public screenings, exposure to industry professionals and skills development.