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A story within a story. In Australia's Northern Territory, a man tells us one of the stories of his people and his land. It's a story of an older man, Minygululu, who has three wives and realizes that his younger brother Dayindi may try to steal away the youngest wife. So, over a few days and several trips to hunt and gather, Minygululu tells Dayindi a story set in the time of their ancestors when a stranger came to the village and disrupted the lives of a serious man named Ridjimiraril, his three wives, and his younger brother Yeeralparil who had no wife and liked to visit his youngest sister-in-law. Through stories, can values be taught and balance achieved? Written by
The title "Ten Canoes" was inspired by a photograph shown to Director Rolf de Heer by Aboriginal actor David Gulpilil. The picture was of group of ten native men in their bark canoes on the Arafura swamp. The photo was taken by anthropologist Dr Donald Thomson who worked in central and north-eastern Arnhem Land seventy years earlier during the mid-1930s. See more »
[all walking in a line]
[all stop and turn]
That one is Djigirr. Djigirr talk too much, but maybe he heard something.
I refuse to walk at the end. Someone ahead keeps farting.
Not me. Not me.
It's you again. You're always so silent. Silent but deadly. Admit it.
Alright, it's me.
You're rotten inside.
I'm rotten inside.
[...] See more »
This story begins with an aerial flyover of Arnhem Land in northern Austalia. A narrator comes on saying that he is going to tell a story, his story. His story starts with the recounting of a tale about his ancestors of a few generations back who are making canoes to traverse a crocodile-filled swamp in search of goose eggs. Within that tale a wise older man is telling another, somewhat parallel, tale to his younger brother dating back many generations to "the ancients." In a clever plotting device the ancestor's tale is shown in black and white while the ancient's tale is shown in color. This technique has the dual effect of allowing director Rolf de Heer to duplicate scenes from black and white photographs taken in the area by an anthropologist in the 1930s (photographs that motivated the making of this film), as well as helping the viewer keep the stories straight.
The cast consists of a few dozen modern day aboriginals playing the parts in the two stories. They try to capture the reality of the times portrayed, and you can believe that this was the way it could have been thousands of years ago for a tribe of early humans. The earlier Astralians have their own customs and language and the cast speaks in their native language, with English subtitles. I kept thinking of how the basic emotions driving the stories are still with us--fear, jealousy, lust, love, trust, distrust, pride, humor, courage, loyalty, honor. The culture presented is indeed not mine, but it is perfectly understandable. Sorcerers keep the tribe stirred up and mystified with special knowledge of "magic," just as modern religions do (with equal effectiveness). There are laws that must be obeyed, even if unwritten. The young men relish showing prowess in hunting and war making. A creator is deemed the prime mover. Marital relationships are not always harmonious, especially if polygamous. And so on.
It appears that no matter how it manifests itself a culture will wrap itself around basic human emotions and desires. It would not be a stretch to recast these stories in a modern setting.
The photography of the landscape is beautiful and sensuous; it contributes greatly to the stories by showing what an intimate relationship early peoples had with the land and its fauna.
This movie helps us better appreciate where we came from and what we are.
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