Leah Purcell’s The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson will have its world premiere at the  prestigious South By South West (SXSW) Festival, to be held ‘virtually’ out of the US next month.

The film will premiere in the Festival’s Narrative Spotlight section, for high profile features having their World, North American or U.S. premieres.

SXSW is renowned for discovering and showcasing ground-breaking international creative voices in a program that celebrates the convergence of the interactive, film, and music industries. Filmmakers such as Lena Dunham, Barry Jenkins and Greta Gerwig are among the directors who made their mark at the Festival.

Based on the Henry Lawson short story and re-imagined for a modern audience by Leah Purcell, The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson tells the story of a woman and her stubborn determination to protect her family from the harshness of a life in 1893, Snowy Mountains. Both a searing thriller and a stark revisionist Western, the film offers a powerful new interrogation of Australian history and culture through the determination of a woman to ensure her children are given a future filled with hope.

Filmed on location in Australia’s dramatic high country, The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson is the feature adaptation of Leah Purcell’s hugely successful stage play.  Amongst the play’s many accolades it received the national Helpmann Award for Best Play and Best New Australian Work, the David Williamson Prize for excellence in writing for Australian theatre and the AWGIE’s Major Award.

Leah Purcell directed and stars in the film and wrote the screenplay. She is joined in the cast by Rob Collins (Cleverman, The Wrong Girl), Sam Reid (Lambs of God, The Railway Man), Jessica de Gouw (Arrow, Gretel & Hansel), Malachi Dower-Roberts, Tony Cogin and Harry Greenwood.

The film is produced by Bain Stewart for Oombarra Productions and David Jowsey, Angela Littlejohn and Greer Simpkin for Bunya Productions. Roadshow Films will distribute the film in Australia and New Zealand. Memento Films International is handling international sales.

Leah Purcell said:  “I am excited and proud that my debut feature is World Premiering at SXSW in Austin TX USA. I’ve seen and heard so much about the festival over the years so to be following in the footsteps of the amazing films and filmmakers that have gone before me is humbling. As an Indigenous Australian woman and filmmaker, I am proud to be sharing a story that literally has mine and my family’s DNA all over it and to be able to share our cultural practise as storytellers through film to the world. I wish I could be at SXSW for the film’s premiere but I’ll be with you in spirit.”

Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason said: ““To have your feature directorial debut selected to screen at this acclaimed film festival is a remarkable feat and testament to Leah Purcell’s talent as a storyteller. Congratulations to the entire creative team, including the producers at Oombarra Productions and Bunya Productions, for bringing this poignant Australian story to the big screen. It’s fantastic to see this powerful First Nations story and distinctive Australian landscapes showcased and celebrated on the world stage. ”

Head of Screen NSW Grainne Brunsdon, Writer/Director Leah Purcell’s The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson is a provocative and powerful story with a powerhouse team behind it. I am thrilled that it is set to engage global audiences with its raw authority and authenticity, which is matched by sweeping shots of New South Wales’ stunning alpine landscapes, and stirring performances from Australia’s finest talents.”

VP,  International Sales & Marketing, Memento Films International, Alexandre Moreau, said: “We are delighted with the World Premiere at SXSW, it’s a great spotlight for the film! Leah Purcell is a multi-talented artist, following her acclaimed stage play and novel, we can’t wait to reveal her feature debut to the world. With The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson , she managed to capture some essential and current topics  wrapped up in a thrilling tale.”

Roadshow Films CEO Joel Pearlman said:  “We are tremendously excited to take The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson to Australian audiences later this year. Leah Purcell has assembled a remarkable cast to bring this seminal work to the screen.”

The film was shot in Adaminaby, Snowy Mountains, the Monaro Plains and in Western Sydney.

Production creditThe Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson is a Oombarra and Bunya Productions production. Major production investment from Screen Australia in association with Screen NSW. Memento Films International is handling international sales. Distribution in Australia and New Zealand by Roadshow Films.