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 ...
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"Twelve Canoes" is a series of short films that paint a compelling portrait of the people, history, culture and place of the Yolngu people whose homeland is the Arafura Swamp of north-central Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory.
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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 movie's closing credits declare that the production of this picture was: "Filmed entirely on location in Arnhem Land, Australia". 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 »
There are currently 3 versions of the film:
(1) the Yolngu languages dialogue version with English subtitles & narration;
(2) the Yolngu languages dialogue & storytelling version in Mandalpingu with English subtitles
(3) the Yolngu language only version without any subtitles
For the Australian Aborigines who are said to date back 65,000 years, the ancestor spirits are still alive. They are a part of an Aborigine's "dreaming" and come to life in the stories indigenous Australians have told through the ages. Playfully narrated by Australian icon David Gulpilil, Ten Canoes, directed by Rolf de Heer (The Tracker) and Peter Djigirr, tells a dreaming story that acts as a lesson for a young man in the tribe who feels that the youngest wife of his older brother should be his. The story has elements of kidnapping, sorcery, and revenge but is mostly about values: how a community living in a natural environment before the coming of the White man developed laws and systems to guide its people. The cast consists of indigenous residents of the Arafura region and many of the visuals recreate the photographs of Donald Thompson, a Melbourne anthropology professor who spent time in the 1930s with the Yolngu people of the Arafura Swamp.
Set a thousand years ago in central Arnhem Land near the Arafura Swamp in northern Australia, east of Darwin, a group of Ganalbingu tribesmen embark on a hunt for magpie geese, a wild bird used to sustain the tribe. To navigate the crocodile-infested swamp, elder Minygululu (Peter Minygululu) leads the tribe in building canoes made out of bark. When he discovers that Dayindi (played by Gulpilil's son, Jamie) has a crush on his third wife, he tells him a story set in a mythical time after the great flood that explains how his people developed laws to govern their behavior, the same laws used by the tribes today. To distinguish between the past and the "present", De Heer uses muted color to show the ancient landscape and black and white for the more modern story.
In the beginning, Ridjimiraril (Crusoe Kurddal) lives with his three wives, Banalandju, Nowalingu (Frances Djulibing), and Munandjarra in a camp with others, including Birrinbirrin (Richard Birrinbirrin), an overweight elder whose sole pleasure in life is to eat honey. Ridjimiraril's younger brother, Yeeralparil (Jamie), who lives in the single men's camp, fancies the beautiful Munandjarra and spends much time stealing visits to the other camp, hoping to catch a glimpse of her. When a stranger approaches without warning, the men are frightened, especially when he tells them that he wants to trade objects of magic.
The local sorcerer warns the men of danger but life proceeds normally until the jealous Nowalingu disappears after a fight with Banalandju. Though the others believe that she simply ran away, Ridjimiraril is convinced that she was abducted by the stranger and receives confirmation for his fear when an old uncle appears and says that he saw his wife in a camp with the stranger. The men are galvanized into action and a war party is prepared. Through myth and illuminating visuals, Ten Canoes generates a greater awareness and understanding of indigenous Australian culture and acts as an impressive counterweight to the argument that Aborigines should give up their past and join the modern world. That the film is entertaining and deeply moving as well as informative is a very welcome bonus indeed.
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