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The Road from Coorain
Essays + Interviews
Memoirs of Girlhood
Jill Ker Conway
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Russell Baker
Autobiography to Film
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Teacher's Guide
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The Road from Coorain      TV 14, S
Airing Sunday, December 14, 2003, on PBS
(Check local listings; date and time may vary)

Aired previously May 2002

...Intriguing and controversial... a gripping, beautiful film that avoids cliché... a quintessentially Australian story about a family struggling to survive in a beautiful, petulant land...

         -- The Sydney Morning Herald

Jill Ker Conway's extraordinary life story begins with her childhood on her parents' sheep ranch in New South Wales, Australia, and takes her to the brink of a brilliant career in academia. An inspiring and haunting work, The Road from Coorain is the story of a childhood and an account of the relationship between two extraordinary women.

Based on Conway's bestselling memoir, Coorain stars Juliet Stevenson (The Politician's Wife; Truly, Madly, Deeply) as Jill's mother Eve who creates an island of civilization on the parched Australian plains and then crumples under the weight of family tragedy.

Richard Roxburgh (Moulin Rouge, Masterpiece Theatre's The Hound of the Baskervilles) is Bill Ker, Jill's charismatic father, an ambitious homesteader who battles bad luck and worse weather, always insisting that his daughter, "Do something. Don't just spend time on this earth."

Jill is a bright loner who loves the bush. Too far from civilization to go to school, the only people she knows are her adored older brothers and the eccentric men who work for her parents. When her brothers leave for boarding school, Jill at the age of eight, becomes her father's helping hand. From her mother she discovers a passion for books. And from both parents, she learns an abiding rule -- you never cry, ever.

Australian actress Katherine Slattery plays the grown-up Jill. And Tim Guinee (Courage Under Fire) is her first love, Alec Merton, an American eminently at home in the arid outback but uncomfortable in the region's culture of repressed emotions. Captivated by Jill's true grit, he introduces her to an enjoyment of life that she never thought possible.

"Such a tremendous and complex social change happened with the women's movement in the '60s, and that whole generational difference is really fascinating," says producer Penny Chapman. "I'm really interested in the relationship interesting women have with their mothers. Motherhood is just such a mighty powerful vocation."

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