Filmed over four days and 4352km, The Indian Pacific is a slow TV documentary that explores the cultural, political and social history of Australia from Perth to Sydney (via Adelaide) using this iconic train as the hero character through which to unpack these stories as it crosses the continent from west to east.
At its core, the Indian Pacific was critical in the uniting the disparate states under Federation, since far-flung Western Australia was so geographically distanced from the eastern states. Indeed, WA officials even tried – but failed – to include a guarantee in the Constitution that would deliver a trans-continental railway linking WA to the rest of the nascent nation. Nonetheless, the transcontinental railway (the forerunner of the Indian Pacific) began operating in 1917, linking the east and west coasts, with the Indian Pacific making the first nonstop transcontinental journey from east to west in 1970.
Continuing the innovative documentary form of Slow TV, The Indian Pacific is loosely broken up into four chapters, each addressing the rail line’s geography and history, the impact of the line on Indigenous life, immigrant life, early and modern Australian life as well as the flora and fauna of the area as the train crosses three states and over a dozen Indigenous borders.
Aside from the social, political and cultural storylines, The Indian Pacific delves into fascinating and little-known stories such as the crash-landing of the NASA Sklyab in the desolate Nullarbor in 1979 and the secret nuclear tests by the British in Maralinga between 1956 and 1963. Accompanying almost 50 stories are the majestic and hypnotic images of the vast desolate country between the Indian and Pacific oceans as the locomotives haul 30 carriages across the continent.