Part period western, part historical drama, part murder mystery, Australian miniseries New Gold Mountain is set for its premiere in the US and Canada.
Before watching New Gold Mountain, I knew about as much about the Australian Gold Rush as I did about the California one, which is to say, nothing. Now that I’m halfway through the show’s four episodes, I know a wee bit more, such as men from different parts of the world — from America and Ireland, to China and Afghanistan — journeyed to Australia in the hope of finding their fortune in gold.
Characters from each of these places, as well as British and Indigenous people, populate the story of New Gold Mountain, the title being the nickname the Chinese had for Australia when they set off Down Under for the gold rush there.
The series opens in the goldfields of Ballarat in 1857. While Chinese men are panning for gold in the Chinese mining camp, headman Leung Wei Shing (Yoson An, Dead Lucky, The Luminaries, Creamerie), known simply as Shing to the non-Chinese, greets the local police sergeant. The White man is in a mood and moves quickly to raid a shanty. The police aren’t surprised by what they find, but Shing is with who he finds there.
But soon Shing, whose job is to maintain peace between the Chinese and the European miners and local authorities, has a bigger problem on his hands than men in his camp smoking opium or gambling, or their having to pay even more with the impending tax increase. “The Brotherhood” is sending “18+1” to the camp to replace the men who left, and once they arrive, it is the “1” who Shing needs to watch out for, as he is the one they are gunning for. As we learn later, past experience in California, heretofore referred to by the Chinese as Gold Mountain, gives The Brotherhood good reason to be suspicious of him.
If Shing was surprised at the shanty, he is shocked by the next thing he’s shown: the body of a murdered White woman on the Chinese Trail — dressed in Chinese clothes. With the British wanting the Chinese to be gone and needing very little reason to accuse them and worse, Shing does what needs must to protect himself and the folks he oversees. But this trouble worsens when the police begin their inquiries after finding the victim’s corpse, and Shing has his own suspicions and goes in search of the truth.
Meanwhile, Belle Roberts (Alyssa Sutherland, Vikings) is in town, setting about restarting her late husband’s Ballarat newspaper, as well as offering a translated version for the men in the Chinese camp. And over in the British camp, digger Patrick Thomas (Christopher James Baker, True Detective) is keeping his head down, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible while he pans for gold. (Hmm…)
Before long, more people are killed, and it becomes nearly impossible for Shing to prevent stuff from hitting the fan in the Chinese camp. From one situation to the next, Shing, Patrick, and Belle learn things they wish weren’t so as their stories begin to converge.
The series is created, written, and co-produced by Peter Cox (This Is Not My Life. The Pretender), and directed by Corrie Chen (Wentworth, Five Bedrooms). It costars Sam Wang (Life is Easy), Mabel Li (The Tailings), Chris Masters Mah (Out of Order), and Leonie Whyman (Redfern Now), and features Rhys Muldoon (Rake), Alison Bell (The Letdown), and Dan Spielman (The Code).
Shown in English and Cantonese (with English subtitles), New Gold Mountain premieres in the US and Canada tomorrow, Thursday, February 3, exclusively on Sundance Now and its digital channels, including Sundance Now on Amazon, and the AMC+ streaming bundle.
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