Original classification rating: PG.
This clip chosen to be PG
Footage of David, Robyn – David’s traditional law wife – and their children in Ramingining. Sweeping aerial views of the ever-widening river that David needs to cross to reach David’s father’s country. Archival footage of Aboriginal people in a mission with David’s voice-over narrating about the first time he saw a white person.
This clip shows Indigenous actor David Gulpilil with his family at Ramingining in north-eastern Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory. Gulpilil describes his father’s country, growing up in the bush, his first encounter with white people, being educated at the Maningrida mission school, and the effect that contact with non-Indigenous people has had on the Indigenous community in this area. The clip includes sweeping aerial shots of north-eastern Arnhem Land, archival footage of the mission, Gulpilil’s narration and evocative music featuring Indigenous chants.
Educational value points
- David Gulpilil’s Yolngu identity and his sense of belonging in his own country are emphasised in the clip, and he is shown against a background of the river and the place where he was born. He explains the origins of his name by referring to the river, the waterfall and his father’s country. He says that every time he looks at the river he is reminded of who he is. Traditional music and singing enhance the sense of Yolngu culture and identity.
- Gulpilil is shown with his extended family. He explains that he and his wife Robyn, seen here with some of their children, were promised to each other by tribal law. There are shots of people around a camp cooking and the sound of people talking in their traditional language in the background. Family continuity is stressed when Gulpilil talks of how he remembers travelling with his father and mother and family when he was young.
- The clip conveys a strong sense of loss and alienation in Gulpilil’s life, especially after his parents died and he went to mission school. He recalls his childhood and the changes that occurred, saying ‘I was a lost child’. When he refers to the difficulty in crossing the river, he implies that he cannot return to the way things were when he was young.
- The clip contrasts Gulpilil’s early life with the changed conditions brought by contact with non-Indigenous people. Over footage of the scenery, Gulpilil says, ‘this land was empty, you know. It was beautiful’. He refers to cigarettes, ganja (marijuana) and grog, suggesting that contact with non-Indigenous people resulted in these drugs causing problems that had not existed when ‘it was just the fresh water and that’s it’, and he and his people ‘could walk and live in this land’.
- David Gulpilil is an award-winning Australian actor and an Elder of the Yolngu people, whose homelands are in north-eastern Arnhem Land. He grew up in the bush and his skills as an accomplished hunter, tracker and ceremonial dancer have featured in his films. His invitation to filmmaker Rolf de Heer to visit Ramingining and spend time exploring his traditional lands resulted in the two collaborating on Ten Canoes (2006), a film featuring Yolngu culture, traditions, country, language and performers.
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