Three young country boys, Zac, Rusty and Tyson, are on the path to prison until they meet a rule breaking jackeroo, and join his legendary travelling dog jumping team.
Sounds like the plot of an inspirational movie, and it is, but it is also a true story that has been turned into a documentary by acclaimed director Catherine Scott, who spent two and a half years following the boys through the ‘troubled youth’ program in Armidale.
Backtrack Boys will be premiered on Sunday at the Sydney Film Festival, and out of the 250 films being screened, is one of only ten that have already sold out before the festival’s official opening on Wednesday.
The Backtrack Program is the brain child and passion of former jackeroo turned social worker Bernie Shakeshaft, who has been praised for his no holds barred approach, and astounding success rate of over 85 per cent.
Mr Shakeshift recently won a top gong at the Australian Crime and Violence Prevention Awards, and is excited to see his program taken to the big screen, although did warn that it will “be a real eye-opener for some people.”
“Cathy (Scott) came to meet us while she was on another project – she fell in love with what she saw and started filming,” Mr Shakeshaft said.
“It is a bit scary but I am also really proud.
While it might sound like a feel good piece, some aspects are far from it, giving a real insight into the world that these young people are faced with.
“A lot of people are comfortable sitting outside the square, but this will challenge that norm,” Mr Shakeshaft said.
“To capture what she (Scott) did is no easy task – it is honest, real, confronting and emotional – there is a lot of doom and gloom but that is the reality sometimes.”
While the founder is not sure what impact the film will have on the general public, he hopes it can make a difference, and perhaps even begin to shift attitudes towards dealing with troubled youths.
“Everytime someone sees anything we do we get inundated with phone calls and referrals.”
“It is about providing hope – there is no quick fix solution, but it does make a difference. However we get very limited government funding and holistic programs like ours are hard to find.”
The film has been nominated for the Documentary Australia Foundation Award, and will premier at the George Street Cinema on Sunday at 2.15pm.