In a remote outback mining station a town gathers for the annual rodeo – but as a series of events unfold, a young man bears witness to something he will never forget

A dark dramatic tone eases through from beginning to end. At first sight, After The Smoke may come off as a slow paced film about – something. But we quickly feel a different tone from the narrator, something special and deep is coming up. Director Nick Waterman then takes us through a carefully calculated visual ride, which makes this quite an immersive watch.

I have always been interested in the way our childhood memories linger and reappear over time, particularly when they stem from tragic events or diverge from the cultural idiosyncrasies we inherit as children.

After the Smoke explores these childhood recollections through the experience of travelling to Mt. Isa, a remote town in far North Queensland.

We spent four days documenting the town, its people and their annual rodeo, for the original purpose of creating a music video but soon discovered there was a more fundamental story we wanted to explore.

During the rodeo I stood in the stadium watching the crowd and feeling their blood-thirst; their palpable attraction to the danger in the arena. I felt the inevitable movement towards that horrific moment where each rider fell, one after the other, before being carried away. I wondered what everyone there was thinking.

There is a dark undercurrent to the glossy spectacle of the rodeo. Similarly, I became aware of the polarization between the people in the town. It seemed to summarize our history, our problems, everything being binary. Naturally, my response was to film it all.

‘After the Smoke’ is a hybrid film using documentary footage interwoven with a fictional narrative that I wrote retrospectively.

The film is a strange and haunting dream which questions ritualized masculinity, as well as man’s perceived separation from nature and his willingness to sacrifice his own life, but for what?