Emu Runner
R0 - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (10th May 2020).
The Film

"Emu Runner" (2018)

Gemma (played by Rhae-Kye Waites) is a young girl who is coping with the very sudden and unexpected death of her mother. The father Jay Jay (played by Wayne Blair) becomes a single father two three children, with Gemma's teenage brother Ecka (played by Rodney McHughes) and sister Valerie (played by Letisha Boney). The extended family as well as the community are concerned about Jay Jay being able to take care of his children, but he insists on keeping them together. Being the youngest, Gemma is having the most emotional difficulty with the situation. Before her mother's death, she learns about how the emu are spiritual animals that remind people of their connection to nature.

Seeing an emu close by, Gemma becomes obsessed with the creature, sneaking out in order to feed it and be close to it, like it was carrying the spirit of her mother. But by skipping school and stealing food, while not telling her family about what she is doing, it causes more concern from school as well as social services, putting a bigger strain on already an emotionally broken family.

Written and directed by Imogen Thomas in her feature film debut after a series of short films, "Emu Runner" was a project developed with an Indigenous community on a miniscule budget with many non-professional actors in main roles, though a few professional actors do make appearances in supporting roles, such as Rob Carlton, Georgia Blizzard, and Wayne Blair for example. The story wasn't originally developed with the idea of having a child as the central viewpoint but the film seems to have made quite a good choice, with the world seen through the eyes of an innocent child. The emu have been historically part of Indigenous Australian myths and a cultural symbol of the country. The flightless bird is not particularly dangerous, and have been frequently part of stories passed through generations, though not particularly in the works of cinema. "Emu Runner" carefully balances the story of a girl and her connection to nature with the emu she encounters along with her sadness dealing with the loss of a loved one.

Not everything is seen through the eyes of the young girl Gemma, as the audience sees quite a lot of other happenings alongside. Gemma's best friend and classmate Tessa (played by Stella Carter) who knows Gemma is looking after a lone emu. The sister Valerie who keeps quiet about her emotional loss but has sudden outbursts. The brother Ecka who is in love with a girl from school and gets in trouble with illegal substances. Social counselor Heidi (played by Georgia Blizzard) who is new in town and has difficulty connecting with Gemma. While Gemma is the one seen the most, there are instances where the supporting cast are able to shine in their spotlights. While the performances are great from the older characters, the younger cast have some difficulty with naturalism in dialogue sequences, seeming forced at times. There are some awkward sounding exchanges, while the better parts come from more of the quieter and silent exchanges, accented by the wonderful soundtrack, performed by Peter Michael Davison, Ben Fink, and Glenn Skuthorpe.

"Emu Runner" is well paced, finely shot, and well made, though it is not at all without its faults. The beauty of the landscape, the innocence and emotional struggles of youth are very well captured as well as the importance of culture and nature. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 7, 2018, followed by the Australian premiere at the Adelaide Film Festival a month later on October 14. The film received a theatrical release in Australia in November, and finally received a DVD release in February 2020 from Umbrella Entertainment.

Note this is a region 0 NTSC DVD


Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in the theatrical 1.85:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement in the NTSC format. The rural landscape of Brewarrina looks marvelous with the browns of the dusty lands, the pale blues of the clear skies and the reddish hues of dusk. Detail is great and framing looks very good, with no particular errors or troubles to speak of for the transfer.

The film has a runtime of 95:03.


English Dolby Digital 5.1
The original language track is presented in 5.1 and sounds quite great. Dialogue is centered and always clear and well balanced. The music score and effects are spread through the surrounds and are well balanced with the dialogue track. There are no issues with hisses, pops, or dropout, with a clean and stable track throughout.

There are no subtitles for the feature.


"Making of Emu Runner" featurette (5:30)
A short featurette with interviews with Thomas along with consultants, crew, and cast members alongside some behind the scenes footage and photos of the shoot, discussing about bringing the culture to the screen. There is no menu screen for the DVD, with the film starting when the disc is played. Once the film ends, the featurette begins.
in anamorphic 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

The trailer, which has not been included on the disc has been embedded below courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment.


The packaging states "region 4" only but is in fact region 0.


"Emu Runner" is a great film about innocence and connecting to nature while dealing with the loss of a loved one. A children's film that is equally great for kids as well as adults, it's a film that is very deserving of viewing. The Umbrella Entertainment DVD has great audio and video as well as a short featurette making it very recommended.

The Film: B Video: A Audio: A Extras: C Overall: B


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