Screened as part of NZIFF 2019

Backtrack Boys 2018

Directed by Catherine Scott Framing Reality

A love for wild dogs and a love for wild kids inspire Australian Bernie Shakeshaft’s remarkable programme to transform the lives of both, intimately observed over two years in Catherine Scott’s acclaimed documentary.

104 minutes DCP



Catherine Scott


Andrea Lang


Kristin Rule
Jonathan Zwartz


Bernie Shakeshaft


Melbourne 2018


Audience Award (Best Documentary), Sydney Film Festival
Audience Award (Best Documentary), Melbourne International Film Festival 2018


In this moving, award-winning documentary, we follow former jackaroo Bernie Shakeshaft’s mission to heal the most damaged and marginalised Australian boys through training dogs for showjumping. Combined with a wholesome rural lifestyle, the task of training and bonding with a dog can captivate and focus kids who would otherwise be on the streets getting into trouble with the police. Bernie’s goals are humble, but genuine and committed: first, keep the boy alive; second, keep him out of prison; and only then encourage him to chase his hopes and dreams.

Centred on the daily lives of three boys at the residential programme in Wallah, rural New South Wales, over the course of two years, Catherine Scott’s film inspires hope without shying away from the harsh reality that looms beyond Backtrack. A genuine tension hangs over the film as all three boys face the possibility that their progress will be derailed by court intervention and imprisonment.

The ultimate endorsement of Bernie’s positive impact on these boys lies in the sharing of their experiences and their reflection on their pasts and potential futures – all poignantly captured through a candid observational style and in deeply honest and heartfelt interviews. A hit with Australian film festival audiences. — Chris Kirk

Backtrack Boys is a film that’s almost embarrassingly heart-warming and irresistibly inspiring. Seriously, we defy anyone to remain unmoved and dry-eyed at the sight of a barrel-load of puppies tumbling around in the grass with troubled, but now-hopeful, teens; or the vision of a manly man who manages to be gentle and articulate about feelings, while helping the next generation to do the same.” — Rochelle Siemienowicz, Screenhub