Tommy (Arnold), a gifted teenage composer, dreams of being accepted into the famous Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Unfortunately, a good band is hard to find in the middle of the Australian Outback—until an incident involving flying watermelons leads him to a group of talented prison inmates.
He meets Kat (Vega), his love interest, as part of the story.
Luke Arnold as Tommy McAlpine
Alexa Vega as Kat Rogers
Timothy Hutton as George McAlpine
Rhys Wakefield as Scott Price
Andy McPhee as Bear
The Fishbowl Boys as themselves
Klayton Stainer as Watermelon Thief
Roger Moore of the Orlando Sentinel found the sight of the lead character conducting an imaginary orchestra a little challenging, and gave the movie 2 stars (out of five).
Cary Darling of the Dallas Morning News objected to the "hardened" prisoners seeming as threatening "as Hogan's Heroes", but gave the film 3½ stars out of five.
Jeff Vice of the Deseret News praises the "gorgeous Australian settings" and the cast of "mostly fresh-faced actors," sums it up as an "entertaining feel-good tale", before awarding the film 2½ stars out of four.
The movie (though said to be fictional) has parallels to the true life story of the jail house band Captive Edition and country singer Ricky Joan. The group was formed in Australia's notorious Long Bay jail by the musician and prison volunteer Vincent Ruello. Ruello auditioned the inmates in 1993 then produced and recorded the Hope album from inside the jail auditorium. Captive Edition was contracted under Warner Chappel Music Publishing House by CEO John Bromel himself soon after hearing the cd. The grand concert finale was filmed by the Channel 10 Network at the Childrens Hospital Camperdown in 1994. The Hope album spawned music rehab programmes across all Australian jails when released in 1994 to extensive media coverage.
Broken Hill took the ‘Best Feature Film - Audience Choice’ Award at the TriMedia Film Festival held in Fort Collins, Colorado (USA) and won a Best Film award at the Giffoni Film Festival in Italy. The Giffoni Film Festival website describes Broken Hill as "halfway between Sister Act and the Italian movie La musica nel Cuore.
The 2010 International Family Film Festival awarded Broken Hill the “Director’s Gold Spirit Award”, the top jury prize awarded by the Festival.