Three new Oz features focus on Alexander Pearce

Columns

Long before the Andes air crash, Australia had Alexander Pearce and his mates, a group of convicts who resorted to cannibalism to survive. Irishman Alexander Pearce was sent to Australia as a convict for the stealing of six pairs of shoes. After escaping from custody, he was then transferred to the prison in Van Diemans Land (Australia’s island state, now called Tasmania). Also known as “The Pieman,” Pearce and seven other convicts escaped from prison in 1822. They survived in a hostile and rugged environment for a while, but as things got worse, two of the convicts fled and gave themselves up. The others stayed in the wild, but only Alexander Pearce was left alive at the end. He was hung for murder and cannibalism in 1824.
This story has been known for a long time, but has only recently attracted the interest of filmmakers. As often happens in Hollywood, several people come across a story and all feel that it would make a great film. The result is three new features based on the story of the infamous Pearce. Dying Breed is a horror film set in the present time, but it uses Pearce as a major plot point. It debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival last year and is due for release in a number of countries. It releases on DVD in the U.S. on March 31.

The other two films are set in the 1820s in Tasmania. The Last Confession of Alexander Pearce debuted on TV in Australia last month and is due for a theatrical release in the U.K. and Ireland. The third film, Van Dieman’s Land, premiered at the Adelaide International Film Festival in February.

P.S.—As far as I know, Alexander is not related to my family, all of whom come from New Zealand.

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Independent distributor Icon is celebrating its second A$10 million-grossing film in two years in Australia. It is extremely rare for an Australian indie to reach that magic number. Following on their hit Death at a Funeral last year, they have cracked the number with the local release of Oscar winner Slumdog Millionaire.

E-mail your Australia/New Zealand new items to David Pearce at insidemovies@hotmail.com.