Transmission has signed up to distribute Brendan Fletcher’s visceral feature debut Mad Bastards in Australia and New Zealand.

The contemporary story about tough, primal men battling to do the right thing by their families, is set in the spectacular frontier region, The Kimberley.

“Seeing the film we simply fell in love with it,” said one of Transmission’s principals, Andrew Mackie. “It’s impact is much greater than the sum of its parts and we immediately knew instinctively that we had to handle it.”

Transmission has scheduled a limited May release, separate to its joint venture with Paramount, although the major will book the screens. E1 Entertainment holds worldwide rights but these local arrangements were negotiated direct with the filmmakers.

Screen Australia, one of the backers of Mad Bastards, insists on a local distributor — and sales agent — being attached as a condition of investment but the rights became available as a result of Mushroom Pictures closing down as the film was being made. Mushroom’s early commitment helped raise the finance and it retains a credit as executive producer.

Two of Fletcher’s fellow producers, Alan and Stephen Pigram, are part of a distinctive seven-piece country/folk/blues band called The Pigram Brothers and collaborated on the soundtrack with Alex Lloyd. The band will travel 4,000 kilometres from one corner of Australia to the other to charm audiences at the Jan 18 world premiere, which is also the opening night of a music-and-movies section of major arts event, the Sydney Festival.

Fletcher wrote the script in collaboration with the Pigrams plus lead actors Greg Tait, Dean Daley-Jones and John Watson.

Comparisons to Samson & Delilah are inevitable, because all the characters in Mad Bastards are indigenous Australians but Mackie believes audiences are less inclined to position a film on that basis than the industry and the media are.

“For the audience, it boils down more to ‘is this a movie I want to see’ rather than its origin,” he said. He agreed that it was a good time for Australian films at the moment.

“It’s my job to be optimistic but even so how can you not be excited right now? Brilliant market share this year, a stunning mix of commercial and critical cinema, Australian movies are selling to key territories worldwide. We’d be lucky to have this year every year for Australian cinema.”