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Confessions of a Headhunter (2000)


A drama about two Indigenous men – Frank (Bruce Hutchison) and Vinnie (Kelton Pell) – who seek revenge for the repeated beheading of the statue of their ancestor warrior Yagan.

Curator’s notes

Based on the short story of the same name written by Archie Weller, Confessions of a Headhunter is a film that speaks about the conflict between Indigenous people or Noongar of the Perth area, and colonial culture. The symbolic violence that is the artefact of an actual war that took place – and as the film suggests – is still taking place, is represented here by the Indigenous characters, who retaliate to the disrespect shown to their ancestor warrior Yagan, an important part of Noongar heritage and culture.

Yagan, a member of the Whadjuk Noongar people and believed to have been born around 1795, was a warrior who resisted the colonisation of Perth. The real Yagan’s head was smoked and sent to England as a trophy, where it was on display in Liverpool until 1964 as an 'anthropological curiosity’. In 1993 Yagan’s remains were repatriated, but remain unburied due to a disagreement between the Indigenous people of the Perth area over issues of proper burial.

Weller was inspired to write the short story after the statue of Yagan itself was beheaded twice. Sally Riley and Archie Weller’s adaptation won the script category of the 2001 Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards, and was the winner of the Cinema Nova Award and the 2000 Australian Film Institute Awards for Best Short Fiction Film. Riley’s other films include Fly Peewee Fly, and In Search of Archie.

Other films in the AFC Indigenous Branch drama initiative On Wheels are Dust and Road (both 2000).

This program has also screened on NITV, National Indigenous Television.