Australian Indigenous film

23 Nov

Such a big and interesting topic! You can see an outline history here.

I am of course prompted by ABC screening Samson and Delilah (2009) last night.

Almost unprecedented was the unanimous five stars from Margaret and David on The Movie Show earlier this year! I can see what they meant, but in many ways it isn’t an easy movie to watch. I suspect it also needs to be watched more than once, but I think I do get where the Biblical allusion fits in. Pretty savage about the commercialisation of Indigenous art too.

The “behind the movie” documentary screens on Thursday night.

By coincidence I had borrowed a 1954 documentary from Surry Hills Library: The Back of Beyond. It is impressive in its way, but there is a bit much fakery for my taste, though it was part of the documentary style of the time, and it is relentless in the “hearts of gold” department to the point of propaganda rather than revelation. Still, it is well worth watching. Poets Douglas Stewart and Roland Robinson had a hand in the script, which rhymes from time to time.

…Shell’s [the oil company] interest in the story of the Birdsville Track is linked to the importance of the postal and telecommunications industry and the development of infrastructure. In this way it shares similarities with the British documentary Night Mail (1936) directed twenty years earlier for the British GPO Film Unit by the ‘father of the documentary movement’ in Britain, John Grierson. Night Mail, like The Back of Beyond, used symbolic imagery, a poetic ‘voice-of-God’ narration, and a mail route to project its message of nation building. But also, like Night Mail, The Back of Beyond has outgrown its beginnings as a product of corporate or private enterprise and continues to resonate today.

The Back of Beyond won the prestigious Grand Prix Assoluto at the Venice Film Festival, the overall prize for the best film across all catagories. It won awards at five international film festivals. Locally it was a hit as well. Some 750,000 people saw the film within the first two years of its release…

The “dying race” view of the Aboriginal was alive and well in 1954.


8 responses to “Australian Indigenous film

  1. Kevin

    November 24, 2009 at 11:39 am

    Darnit, I can’t find the movie on the web. The best I can find is one about a guy with long hair who eventually pushes down some kind of large pillared building.

    Do you have any super-secret Australian links to the movie that you can publish so a yank can watch it? Or, if that idea fails, is there a DVD? I’m quite interested in the original populaters of Australia. I saw a movie about some Aussie gov’t organization that in the 1900s took children away from their parents if they were half-native-Aussies, and half-Scandanavian (or maybe it was half-Italian; white people all look the same to me).

    That seems barbaric to me. But it also got me wondering:

    -Are there less aboriginees in Aussieland today than there were when Britain arrived? Why is (insert answer to previous question here) so? Are they more poorly fed now?

    -Does racism still play a part in Australian life? I ask this not accusitoraly (accusiatorally?). I am just curious and will likely take your word for it.

  2. Neil

    November 24, 2009 at 11:54 am

    The DVD is appearing from tomorrow at The ABC Shop and you may order it there. As for the other questions, I honestly don’t believe Australians are more or less racist than anyone else. The condition of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders varies greatly from place to place. There are possibly now more people defined as Aboriginal in Australia than there were in 1788, but is something like 1.9% of the population. The complexity of the count is described well in Wikipedia. I am myself of Aboriginal descent according to the current definitions, but do not identify as Aboriginal. One of my nephews does.

    You’ll find a lot on the subject by searching my blogs.

  3. Lisa

    November 24, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    I can’t believe I missed this!

  4. Neil

    November 24, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    Make sure you see the doco on Thursday night then. 🙂

  5. Kevin

    November 25, 2009 at 4:07 am

    YOUCH! It’s forty bucks! They’re usually only $10 here. Why so expensive? Is your ABC run by the government or something?

  6. Neil

    November 25, 2009 at 8:09 am

    That’s the normal price of a new DVD here.

  7. Kevin

    November 25, 2009 at 9:10 am

    As Yoda said, “Trouble believing you having am I.” Don’t Australians have If not, you should look into it. Those Amazonians have prices that almost rival WalMart.

    Sheesh, no wonder movie piracy is rampant. If I had to pay $40 to watch one, I’d pirate it too.

  8. Neil

    November 25, 2009 at 11:38 am

    Yes, we do have access to which at the moment avoids the GST (tax) imposed by John Howard’s government. No doubt this video will soon be available that way; it was only released yesterday, so it is very new. Part of the money also goes to the film-maker, which is fair enough given it is a small independent outfit.

    We also can wait as DVDs appear about a year after first release at prices around $US 10-20.


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