The ABC has commissioned a new television documentary adaptation of Dr Tony Moore’s Death or Liberty: rebels and radicals transported to Australia.
Death or Liberty is the first narrative history that brings together the stories of the political prisoners sent as convicts to Australia from all over Britain and her vast Empire, spanning the early days of the penal settlement at Sydney Cove until transportation ended in 1868.
Drawing on his book and new research, Dr Moore from the National Centre for Australian Studies is currently working with the producers on the documentary script.
The documentary will be produced by innovative Tasmanian-based Roar Films, in association with leading Irish production house Tile Films.
Producer Stephen Thomas said the documentary would be a dynamic telling of history melding drama, music and song, landscape and voice.
“Spoken-word testimony will be sourced from original letters, poems, documents, newspapers, memoirs, trial transcripts and orders of the governors and Crown,” Mr Thomas said.
Roar Films has a strong background in Australian convict history and collaboration with academics having produced the Founders and Survivors Storylines, a large-scale interactive online documentary. Tile Films has produced many landmark history documentaries including Cromwell in Ireland and In the Name of the Republic.
The documentary’s executive producer is the award winning filmmaker Anna Grieve, whose credits include I, Spry and Who Killed Dr Bogle and Mrs Chandler?.
In commissioning the documentary, the ABC was attracted to the filmmakers’ innovative emphasis on the media of protest, especially the stirring music created in the late 18th and 19th centuries to rally and inspire radical and reform movements.
To help reimagine the soundtrack of resistance for 21st century audiences, especially the young, singer-songwriters Billy Bragg (UK), Mick Thomas (Australia) and Damian Dempsey (Ireland) have been engaged as musical directors on the project.
Dr Moore and Roar Films are also working towards producing an online archive drawing on the documents, personalities and media of Death or Liberty, and are liaising with specialist museums and archives in Australia and overseas about collaborating in an ARC Linkage project to achieve this.