Australian Screen

Australia’s audiovisual heritage online

Radiance (1998)

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clip Turtle education content clip 2

Original classification rating: M. This clip chosen to be M

Clip description

The sisters carry a turtle into the kitchen. They talk about killing it and making turtle curry. Stones hit the roof of the house. Young boys yell 'witch, witch’. Nona confronts the boys, and they scurry off into the bush.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This clip shows sisters Nona (Deborah Mailman) and Cressy (Rachel Maza) carrying a large turtle into a house and placing it on the kitchen table, watched by another sister, Mae (Trisha Moreton-Thomas). Nona wants to cook a meal from their childhood but is unable to kill the turtle. When stones begin to rain on the roof, Nona goes outside to yell at the boys throwing the stones. Mae tells Cressy that their mother’s antisocial behaviour is the reason for the stone throwing and for no-one attending her funeral. The clip closes with a view of black clouds gathering over the sea.

Educational value points

  • The clip raises issues about family relationships and the effects that secrets and separations can have on sibling relationships. Mae had lived with and cared for her mother in a remote location while her two sisters Nona and Cressy lived different lives far from home. After their mother’s death, Cressy is confronted with the realisation that Mae has suffered because of their mother’s disturbing behaviour such as spitting on and cursing at people in their town.
  • The clip includes a scene of local boys throwing stones at the house and chanting ‘witch’, an incident that reveals to Nona and Cressy that their mother and Mae have become outsiders in their community. The atmosphere of secrecy and distress is apparent when Mae does not react to the boys’ taunting behaviour, which has become a regular occurrence. Mae’s anger and pain emerge when she explains that their mother was despised in the town and that the title of ‘witch’ was well deserved.
  • Each of the sisters has her own distinct character and role. Nona wears a short black dress, looks younger than her sisters, makes nostalgic references to their childhood and acts quickly to dispel the stone-throwing boys. Cressy is dressed more formally and elegantly. Her manner is reserved and she speaks more formally and questions her sister Mae. Mae is dressed casually and she seems tired, bitter and very tense during the stone-throwing scene.
  • The clip uses dialogue and humour to depict the relationships between the sisters and the unfolding drama. When Nona is reluctant to kill the turtle and her sister gives her the knife, she suggests they eat spaghetti instead, relieving the tension in the scene. Mae jokes about the candles, suggesting they are meant for the turtle to ‘wax his bikini line’. These references lighten the atmosphere and create a sense that the sisters have a shared history.
  • Radiance is the first feature film by Indigenous director Rachel Perkins, who has ensured that while this is a story of broad themes such as family and belonging, Indigenous women are at the heart of the film. In more than 20 years of working in film and television Perkins has focused on telling Indigenous stories, including the groundbreaking SBS series First Australians, a major documentary series that tells Australian history from an Indigenous perspective.
  • Radiance was adapted from a 1993 play of the same name by Louis Nowra (1950–). Nowra has written more than 30 plays involving characters who represent Australia’s many cultural identities. In this play he has created three complex and powerful Indigenous characters. Whether powerful or marginalised, his central characters are frequently women and project a universal message about the important roles women play in all cultures.

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australianscreen is produced by the National Film and Sound Archive. By using the website you agree to comply with the terms and conditions described elsewhere on this site. The NFSA may amend the 'Conditions of Use’ from time to time without notice.

All materials on the site, including but not limited to text, video clips, audio clips, designs, logos, illustrations and still images, are protected by the Copyright Laws of Australia and international conventions.

When you access australianscreen you agree that:

  • You may retrieve materials for information only.
  • You may download materials for your personal use or for non-commercial educational purposes, but you must not publish them elsewhere or redistribute clips in any way.
  • You may embed the clip for non-commercial educational purposes including for use on a school intranet site or a school resource catalogue.
  • The National Film and Sound Archive’s permission must be sought to amend any information in the materials, unless otherwise stated in notices throughout the Site.

All other rights reserved.

ANY UNAUTHORISED USE OF MATERIAL ON THIS SITE MAY RESULT IN CIVIL AND CRIMINAL LIABILITY.

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