October 19, 2007
I finally got around to watching Ten Canoes, the 2006 Australian film shot with Aboriginal actors speaking Ganalbingu (with a English voice-over narrating part of it). It is filmed in Arnhem Land, where it depicts pre-contact Aboriginal society. It involves a goose-hunting trip through the swamps during which a younger brother covetous of his elder brother's youngest wife is told an ancient and tragic story about faithfulness and loyalty in a similar situation. Many of the scenes of the film are recreations of 1930s photos by anthropologist Donald Thomson, one of which - ten men poling canoes through a swamp - was the inspiration for film. I'm not too sure where the tale comes from, although director seems to imply, in response to the white-guy-makes-films-about-Aboriginal-culture criticisms in some interviews, that the actors created or retold it.
It is a charming and beautifully shot film and I enjoyed it very much. It seemed reasonable enough as a fictional depiction of a hunter-gatherer/foraging way of life, and the story is dramatic and engaging.
Some scholarly blog posts from earlier in the year when most people watched it are here:
It is reminiscent of Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, another indigenous language film with a similar theme.
It is available on Netflix.
Posted by johnn at October 19, 2007 10:36 PM
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