High Ground


High Ground is set in the 1930s in Northern Australia and is inspired by true events.

In 1919 World War One army sniper-turned-policeman Travis loses control of his team during a confrontation in Northern Australia. A group of soldiers, many of them war veterans themselves, massacre almost everyone of a tribe of the Yolngu Aboriginal people. One young boy, Gutjuk, survives and is rescued by a veteran sniper, Travis, and raised (as Tommy) by missionaries in a military outpost.

The past comes back to haunt them all, 14 years later, as Tommy’s uncle, Aboriginal warrior Baywara, wreaks his revenge on the soldiers who killed his family and conducts a spate of attacks on their properties.

Travis recruits Gutjuk as his tracker. Gutjuk joins Travis for reasons of his own, a reckoning of their shared past.

Together they embark on a manhunt, which unravels a secret that ultimately pits them against each other.

"High Ground was conceived as a story that would challenge accepted notions of the settlement of Australia. Faced with the myth of terra nullius our aim with the film is to present a different perspective on how this country was made. The approach was always to make a genre film, a rollercoaster action thriller that delivers as an entertaining story first and foremost,” says director Stephen Johnson about his film.

Inspired by Australia’s untold history, High Ground is a reckoning with the past, set in stunning country.

High Ground was highly acclaimed at its world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival 2020.



Simon Baker - Travis
Jacob Junior Nayinggul - Gutjuk
Jack Thompson - Moran
Callan Mulvey - Eddy
Caren Pistorius - Claire
Ryan Corr - Braddock
Sean Mununggurr - Baywarra
Witiyana Marika - Grandfather Dharrpa
Esmerelda Marimowa - Gulwirri
Maximillian Johnson - Bruce
Aaron Pedersen - Walter
Release dates
23 February 2020 - World premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival, Germany
28 July 2020 - Australia (initial release)
28 January 2021 - Australia (delayed cinematic release, due to coronavirus pandemic)
MA 15+ - Mature accompanied
Samuel Goldwyn Films

High Ground was shot in Arnhem Land and Kakadu National Park (NT).

Stephen Johnson collaborated with Mandawuy Yunupingu, Witiyana Marika, Jonathan Nadji, Alfred Nayinggul and many families across Arnhem Land to craft the story.

Watch now or find a DVD/BlueRay copy

Powered by JustWatch

Browse a list of Aboriginal film suppliers and distributors

Other films by Stephen Johnson

Go exploring!

Use the Aboriginal film timeline to discover films you never heard of.

Take the quiz: Are you an Aboriginal movie buff?

Cite this page

Korff, J 2020, High Ground, <>, retrieved 19 June 2024

Creative Spirits is a starting point for everyone to learn about Aboriginal culture. Please use primary sources for academic work.

Join thousands of Smart Owls who know more!