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The Fringe Dwellers (1986)

PG | | Drama | October 1986 (USA)
Story of an aboriginal family who tries to move out of the fringe into the main white community.


Bruce Beresford
1 win & 7 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Kristina Nehm Kristina Nehm ... Trilby Comeaway
Justine Saunders Justine Saunders ... Mollie Comeaway
Bob Maza Bob Maza ... Joe Comeaway
Kylie Belling Kylie Belling ... Noonah Comeaway
Denis Walker Denis Walker ... Bartie Comeaway
Ernie Dingo ... Phil
Malcolm Silva Malcolm Silva ... Charlie
Marlene Bell Marlene Bell ... Hannah
Michelle Torres Michelle Torres ... Audrena
Michele Miles Michele Miles ... Blanchie
Oodgeroo Noonuccal ... Eva (as Kath Walker)
Bill Sandy Bill Sandy ... Skippy
Maureen Watson Maureen Watson ... Rene
Robert Ugle Robert Ugle ... Tim
Alan Dargin Alan Dargin ... Bruce


Story of an aboriginal family who tries to move out of the fringe into the main white community.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


You'll remember it for a long, long time . . . [Australia Theatrical] See more »




PG | See all certifications »






Release Date:

October 1986 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Aux frontières de la ville See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$15,940, 25 January 1987, Limited Release

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



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Did You Know?


In school, Bartie Comeaway reads the poem, 'The Boomerang' by Jack Davis. Jack Davis (1917-2000) was an Aboriginal playwright and poet from Western Australia. He was of the Aboriginal Noongar people of Western Australia. Most of his work (10 plays, 3 books of poetry) dealt with the Australian Aboriginal experience. He is regarded as the 20th Century's Aboriginal Poet Laureate. His plays appear on Australian school syllabuses. See more »


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User Reviews

An immediately identifiable film that ultimately gives you far too many questions to answer.
15 June 2010 | by BERSERKERpoetrySee all my reviews

There are passages in "The Fringe Dwellers" where the characters' irrationality goes beyond the limits of understandability. They do foolish things and interact in such destructive and confusing ways that it often makes them impossible to identify with. As much as this is a film designed to give you insight into current (at least, for 1986) social drama in the Aboriginal culture, that might not be a very positive experience. This is a story that leaves you more with a sense of confusion and alienation than anything else. And, unfortunately, that extends to even the most central themes of the story. We are told that the racist people condone the Aboriginal girl's actions because they figure "she doesn't know better". But by the end of the film, we are asked, even expected, to do the very same.

As for Bruce Beresford's directorial style here, it has more in common with films like "Crimes of the Heart" and "Mister Johnson" than "Tender Mercies" or "Driving Miss Daisy". Which is to say, more overacting than realism. Beresford has one main strength, and that is how he works with actors. If he doesn't succeed in this pursuit, his films often feel somewhat gutted. That is partly the case with "The Fringe Dwellers". There are scenes with Trilby (Kristina Nehm) that draw the viewer in with a very real sort of intensity. Nehm has a deeply charismatic feeling about her. There are other great, brief scenes. The highlight of the entire film is a long, uncut passage where a mother speaks of the past as her daughter lies in bed after giving birth. This is a movie of convincing silences. When observation takes over conversation, it is nearly perfect in its realization.

In the end, there's something about it all that just doesn't come together. Thanks to cinematographer Donald McAlpine, it's often a very stunning film to look at. But the uneven acting, the strange directions the script takes, and the inability to construct something truly heartbreaking leaves "The Fringe Dwellers" as somewhat more of a curiosity than a proper classic.

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