Emu Runner presents a child’s perspective of life in an Australian outback town and this is reflected in the cinematic language. The mood and tone is visceral, honest and immediate, instantly engaging the audience in Gem’s world.
Following in the cinema vérité tradition, the film was shot on location in Brewarrina, and as much as possible, was cast from within the community.
The camera style in Emu Runner has an observational quality, with a readiness to capture and respond to the impulses of the performers. A lightweight camera was used, predominantly hand-held, to allow for mobility and flexibility during the shoot. The camera framing was mindful of the inherent relationship between the characters and the landscape as well as the animals that inhabit that country.
Overall, the visual design of the film sculpts from the textures and colours that exist in Brewarrina. The colour palette is informed by the outback landscape, with its black and burnt-red soil, the sandy yellows of the grassy plains and the muted ashen greens of the scrubby bush. Washed-out, sun-bleached colours of the weatherboard houses and shop signs are reflected in the townscape. The character of the social worker, Heidi, sits outside this colour spectrum. She stands out in stark whites and steely tones, reflecting the textures and contrast of the city she has come from.
Films that have been seminal in the development of Emu Runner include Rene Clément’s Forbidden Games, Carol Reed’s Fallen Idol, Peter Bogdanovich’s Paper Moon, Tony Gatlif’s Swing as well as the Dardenne Brothers’ film The Kid with a Bike. In each of these films the director invites the audience to experience the raw truthfulness of child’s point of view and their imaginative spirit when faced with the dramas of their lives.
While Emu Runner is grounded in a distinct social realist style it strives to capture the inherent lyricism of its characters and their world.