Robyn Davidson’s epic solo trek is now an epic film
Robyn Davidson’s solo trek through the remote Australian desert to the West Coast of Australia in the 1970s gained international attention and her book Tracks became an international best seller. More than 30 years later, this epic journey has been made into an epic film.
Starring Australian actress Mia Wasikowska as Robyn and Adam Driver as National Geographic photographer Rick Smolan, Tracks is directed by John Curran and produced by Oscar winners Emile Sherman and Iain Canning (The King’s Speech).
Tracks is based on Robyn’s 2700km trek from Alice Springs to Uluru and on to the Indian Ocean, during which she traversed some of the most dangerous and breathtaking remote land, accompanied only by her dog Diggity and four wily camels Bubs, Dookie, Zeleika and Goliath.
The adventure started when Robyn, dissatisfied with city life, travelled to Alice Springs, then considered one of the remotest towns on earth and no place for a single woman. Searching for more out of life, she embarked on a plan to trek alone in to the sparse desert, and spent two years learning about working with camels and surviving the harsh landscape.
Enduring backbreaking labour with Austrian emigrant Kurt Posel (played by Rainer Brock) and Afghani camel farmer Sally Mahomet (Hoyhn Flaus) eventually enabled her to purchase her beasts of burden. Further funds for the journey were secured after being offered a deal by Rick Smolan, a charismatic National Geographic Photographer from New York who assisted her efforts to raise finance in exchange for capturing the journey on film.
Her misgivings of entering such a commercial arrangement, through to the increasing frustration of Smolan’s intrusion when they met at prearranged locations en route, are well captured in the movie, as is Robyn’s personal transformation and the relationship she builds with her camels who prove to be trusted friends and confidantes. The journey pushed Robyn to her physical and emotional limits and taught her that sometimes we have to detach from the world to feel connected to it.
Robyn’s adventurous journey appeared on the cover of National Geographic in March 1978 and she wrote about it in great detail in her book Tracks, published in 1980. The novel went on to become an international bestseller, translated into many languages, but it took Emile Sherman many years to secure the rights to the book and get it to the big screen.
“Tracks is one of those books that pretty much every Australian knows,” Sherman says. “It’s sort of a seminal epic Australian story; It was actually on the school syllabus for many years. “I always felt it was one of those big stories that was set in Australia, and being a producer based in Australia I thought, I really want to tell this story. “I think it’s got a lot to say, it’s very pertinent and current to the world today.”
For John Curran, Tracks was a story he had heard about for many years. He recalls: “I was 24 and I decided to come to Australia. “I did some backpacking around and was introduced to the book back then. “Then, years later Emile approached me and I read the book and it struck me that the book and her journey really captured a time, a place and an experience that I felt like a had a lot of affinity for; the idea of doing something dramatic in your life when you’re feeling a bit stuck.”
Despite many offers over the years, Robyn is pleased to see Tracks being made into an Australian film. “Obviously I don’t think it’s going to be a direct rendition of my book, and I think any writer who thinks the film is going to be totally faithful to the book is naïve. It’s their vision and I’m happy with that.” Tracks is due for release throughout Australia in March.
“I always felt it was one of those big stories that was set in Australia, and being a producer based in Australia I thought, I really want to tell this story.” Emile Sherman
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