Shot entirely in Aboriginal language, this Australian comedy drama is one of the most arresting and original offerings to emerge out of last year's Cannes film festival.

Ten Canoes

on June 01, 2007 by Richard Mowe
One of the most arresting and original offerings out of Cannes last year, Ten Canoes , set in tribal times in Australia's distant past, is the story of Dayindi (played by Jamie Gulpilil, son of the great Aboriginal actor David Gulpilil), who covets one of the wives of his older brother (Peter Minygululu). To teach him the proper way, he is told a story from the mythical past—a story of deceived love, kidnapping, sorcery, bungling mayhem and revenge gone wrong…all the ingredients for an action-packed ride.

Part of the film takes a monochrome documentary approach with the hunting sequences based on the photographs shot in the 1930s by anthropologist Donald Thomson. Then it bursts into lush full color and wonderful aerial pans over stunning landscapes, and thereafter alternates between the two, seamlessly linked together.

Directed by Dutchman De Heer, who made The Quiet Room , Dance Me to My Song , The Tracker and Bad Boy Bubby , Ten Canoes has broader appeal than a mere True Life curiosity. Its authenticity was assured by being written in collaboration with the community of Ramingining in Australia's Northern Territory. It is the first feature film to be shot entirely in Aboriginal language (predominantly Ganalbingu), with English storytelling by David Gulpilil.

Without being po-faced or overly earnest, De Heer records for posterity what the Aboriginal culture used to be and takes us back to its roots. Ten Canoes deservedly won a special jury prize from the Un Certain Regard organizers. Distributor: Palm
Cast: Crusoe Kurddal, Jamie Gulpilil, Richard Birrinbirrin, Frances Djulibing, Peter Minygululu, David Gulpilil and Peter Djigirr
Director/Screenwriter: Rolf De Heer
Producers: Rolf De Heer, Julie Ryan and Sue Murray
Genre: Comedy drama; Aboriginal- and English-language, subtitled
Rating: Unrated
Running time: 91 min.
Release date: June 1, 2007 NY

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