Hopscotch has signed on to distribute The Tall Man, from writer/director Tony Krawitz, two weeks after the feature-length documentary earned a standing ovation at its world premiere at the Adelaide Film Festival.

The news comes as controversy again surrounds the conduct of the police in the case explored in the film: the 2004 death of indigenous man Cameron Doomadgee (also known as Mulrunji) while he was under arrest on Queensland’s Palm Island. Doomadgee taunted police and, 45 minutes later, was dead on the floor of a local police cell with massive internal injuries.

Hopscotch could not secure more than just the theatrical window because public broadcaster SBS holds TV and DVD rights, but the importance of the subject overrode the commercial impact of this.

“We never wanted to put theatrical pressure on the project but just wanted to make the best film we could,” producer Darren Dale told ScreenDaily.

“It is a pretty extraordinary case and the film speaks to anyone in the world who is interested in justice, minority groups or the powerless…If we get festival interest it could be worth appointing a sales agent with theatrical experience to work with SBS Content Sales.”

Sydney-based Krawitz said he found striking parallels between North Queensland and the South Africa he grew up in under apartheid. Some indigenous people told him they face racism on a daily basis, he added. Krawitz previously made the 52-minute Jewboy, which screened in Un Certain Regard at Cannes in 2005, and then in Sundance.

The film’s title is taken from a book by journalist Chloe Hooper and refers to Chris Hurley, the police officer found not guilty of the manslaughter of Doomadgee.

Various trials and investigations have occurred since the death and this week’s media outburst was sparked by Queensland’s Crime and Misconduct Commission making a statement about being unable, by law, to prosecute the police officers involved, some of whom have bravery awards for their actions in the subsequent riot. The riot occurred a week after the death and was sparked by a public meeting at which the report from the autopsy was read out.

The Tall Man was funded by Screen Australia, the state agencies Screen Queensland and Screen NSW, as well as SBS and the festival.