Ten Canoes

on June 01, 2007 by Richard Mowe
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One of the most arresting and original offerings in Cannes this 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. Starring Crusoe Kurddal, Jamie Gulpilil, Richard Birrinbirrin, Frances Djulibing, Peter Minygululu, David Gulpilil and Peter Djigirr. Directed and written by Rolf De Heer. Produced by Rolf De Heer, Fandango Australia, Julie Ryan and Sue Murray. A Palm release. Comedy/Drama. Aboriginal- and English-language; subtitled. Not yet rated. Running time: 91 min

Tags: Starring Crusoe Kurddal, Jamie Gulpilil, Richard Birrinbirrin, Frances Djulibing, Peter Minygululu, David Gulpilil, Peter Djigirr, Directed, written by Rolf De Heer. Produced by Rolf De Heer, Fandango Australia, Julie Ryan, Sue Murray, Palm, Comedy, Drama
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