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‘Gravel Road’ follows Australian rock band 

Film selected to screen at Poppy Jasper International Film Festival

"Gravel Road" is a documentary that follows the Australian Aboriginal rock band Desert Stars. Contributed photo.

“Gravel Road,” an Australian documentary that follows the adventures of Aboriginal rock band Desert Stars as they embark on their first road tour, will screen in Morgan Hill April 10 as part of the 2022 Poppy Jasper International Film Festival.

Directed by Tristan Pemberton, the film “gives rare insight into the convergence of Indigenous Australian culture and contemporary rock music,” says a press release from Flywire Films.

“What an utter privilege it’s been to collaborate with singer-songwriter Jay Minning and the community of Tjuntjuntjara in the making of ‘Gravel Road,’” Pemberton said. “Every journey changes you, and this one left an indelible mark on all participants in the true spirit of ngapartji-ngapartji (reciprocity). It was all made possible because of Jay’s incredible passion to share his remarkable life, culture and Spinifex history through music.”

The film follows Minning and his band, Desert Stars, on their 2018 debut tour as they travel from their home in remote Tjuntjuntjara across the terrain of Australia’s Western Desert, in support of their second studio album, “Mungangka Ngaranyi (It’s On Tonight),” says the press release.

Minning’s community and the four-piece band are situated in the Great Victoria Desert of Western Australia. Desert Stars’ music reflects on the artists’ deep connection to their culture as they are “the last true nomads.” With songs of hunter-gatherer life and their survival of the British atomic testing at the infamous Maralinga site, Desert Stars’ fanbase is diverse and rapidly growing.

“I’m pukulpa (happy) that our film has been selected for Poppy Jasper International Film Festival. The band is looking forward to sharing our music, culture and history with Morgan Hill. It’s a dream for us,” says Minning. 

Much like the Desert Stars’ tour itself, the production of the self-funded, low-budget documentary proved challenging, at times near impossible, the press release continues. Pemberton served as the all-encompassing director, cinematographer and sound recordist, while sound designer Phil Snow worked tirelessly to clean up the sound, as there was no official sound person on the shoot. 

“Gravel Road” will screen at the Morgan Hill Community Playhouse at 8:30pm April 10. Tickets to the screening and passes to the Poppy Jasper International Film Festival can be purchased at pjiff2022.eventive.org/passes/buy.

The local film festival runs April 6-13 at locations in Morgan Hill, Gilroy, San Juan Bautista and Hollister. More than 150 filmmakers from 11 countries and five states are attending Poppy Jasper this year. The lineup includes more than 100 short films from 30 different countries. 

The festival will feature panel discussions with industry leaders, discussing subjects such as women in film, the film industry, visual effects and more.

The festival will also include a Youth and Student Festival Day showcasing student films from across the world on April 6; panel discussions on Latino representation in the industry on April 11; LGBTQ+ Day highlighting the work of LGBTQ+ filmmakers and stories on April 12; and Iran Day, spotlighting some of the best films from the country including PJIFF alumni Javad Daraei’s “Metamorphosis in the Slaughterhouse” on April 13. 

On April 8, the “Poppy Bash!” celebration will premiere the song “Believe” at the Gilroy Event Center, 7588 Monterey St. The night will include a special live performance of the song by its composers—Grammy Award-winner Randy Spendlove, multi-platinum artist Polo Jones and other local musicians. The event, featuring a keynote speech by Landau, will be co-hosted by Jayson Stebbins and Drag Queen Alina Malletti Galore. 

The 2022 festival is occurring in-person for the first time since 2019.

For more information, visit pjiff.org.