‘Backtrack Boys’ Is A Tear-Jerking Story Of Troubled Boys On Their Journey To Becoming Strong Men

Director of ‘Backtrack Boys’, Catherine Scott, presents to us a tear-jerking story of troubled boys on their journey to establishing themselves as strong, beautiful men – one dog at a time. This is the Australian feature length documentary Backtrack Boys. Here’s a background check: alcohol? Yes. Drugs? Yes. Violence? Yes. The lives of the boys we follow have had their fair share of problems that is keeping them in the cycle of heartbreak and trouble with the law.  Thankfully, there is the story of the Backtrack Program that assists thousands of adolescent men interrupt that cycle. Bernie Shakeshaft, founder of the Backtrack Program, is coaching these young men about the character traits that will carry them to a future that the boys never thought would be possible for themselves.

There is an ever increasing amount of youths entering the justice system; on the average night 964 adolescences are being detained. That number is just shy of 1,000, and over half of these would be those of Torres Strait Islanders and/or Aboriginal descent. Thankfully, there is hope for these young citizens. That hope comes from programs like Backtrack. We trail the boys from the big house to the country; we see them travel from town to town for dog shows. Scott, also cinematographer has created a captivating and visually stunning documentary. She allows us to experience all the dewy mornings, country sounds and open space the Australian landscape has to offer.

This documentary is a moving portrait of complete and totally unscripted hope. They say you can’t train an old dog to do new tricks, but while these boys are training their dogs, they are being trained themselves. Like some dogs, some of the boys require more help and we, as an audience, are warmed by how a band of young men can gather to talk, cry and do life with one another. Touched by watching them learn to take care of their dogs, themselves, each other and the community. A contrast to the life they are all hoping to leave behind.

Words by Rebekah Harm

Backtrack Boys is screening at this year’s festival. See the program.