Director: Steven Vidler
Screenwriters: Nick Enright

Institute History

  • 1997 Sundance Film Festival


Steve Vidler’s gutsy debut feature surfaces as a powerhouse of a movie. In the vein of Tim Hunter’s River’s Edge and Larry Clark’s Kids, Blackrock is as raw in its intensity as it is brutal in its authenticity. Though its themes strike a familiar chord, rarely have we seen a work that so exhaustively probes the impact of a single reprehensible act and its shattering impression on the soul of an entire community. From the lonesome perspective of its teenage protagonist, the film evidences one boy’s onerous dilemma: opting for the dire consequences of truth or the inner torment of loyalty. His searing confusion in prioritizing an allegiance to mates versus an obligation to conscience galvanizes this sensational drama.

Seventeen-year-old Jared lives alone with his mother Diane, a single parent coping silently with her recent diagnosis of breast cancer. When his mentor, mate, and local surfing legend, Ricko, returns from a stint up the coast, Jared decides to throw a welcome-home party at the local surf club. As the party rages on, a fifteen-year-old girl is gang-raped and beaten to death on an abandoned stretch of beach only minutes from the club. When morning breaks and news of the murder circulates, the working class community of Blackrock is promptly splintered by shame, deceit, and mistrust. With the media gorging on the class and age aspects of the story, Diane pleads with her sullen son to reaffirm his innocence.

Ostensibly the tale of Jared’s slaughtered innocence and scarred passage of transformation, Blackrock takes an uncompromising stare down the barrel of familial disintegration, frayed communication, and unguided maturation. An established theater actor, director Steven Vidler extracts inspired performances from his young cast (especially from newcomer Laurence Breuls as Jared) and realizes a shocking voracity in his hard, fast, vérité-style production. As stressed by the film’s director, Blackrock is “not just the story of an individual tragedy, but the tragedy of a society that refuses to take responsibility for the individuals it creates.” Based on a play by Academy Award nominee Nick Enright (Lorenzo’s Oil), Blackrock is a majestic achievement: honest, emotional, and joltingly relevant.

— Rebecca Yeldham

Screening Details

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