Ten Canoes (2006) - Plot Summary Poster



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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?

  • An elder of an Indigenous tribe in Australia's Northern territory realizes a youngster on his first geese hunt is tempted to adultery with an elder brother's wife. Therefore he explains how traditionally the youth is told elaborate, edifying stories, like this one, since the earliest existence of the tribe, about how evil slips in, notably by sorcery, and ends up causing immense havoc unless prevented by virtue according to customary tribal law.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • "The story takes place in two periods in the past. In the first story, shot in black-and-white, a young man called Dayindi (Jamie Gulpilil) takes part in his first hunt for goose eggs in the Arafura swamp, in central Arnhem Land. As he learns how to build a bark canoe, his older brother tells him a story. This older man, Minygululu (Peter Minygululu) knows that Dayinidi fancies Minygululus young and pretty third wife (Cassandra Malangarri Baker), so the story he tells is about the old laws, and a young man who had no wife.

    This second story is set in a much older time, and shot in colour, with most of the parts played by the actors from the first story. In this story, Jamie Gulpilil plays Yeeralparil, who fancies the third wife of the warrior Ridjimiraril (Crusoe Kurddal). When this mans second wife Nowalingu (Frances Djulibing) disappears, Ridjimiraril suspects a stranger, who has been seen near the camp. By mistake, he spears the stranger, but its the wrong man. Ridjimiraril must face the mans relatives, in a ritual payback. He chooses his brother Yeeralparil to stand beside him for the payback. Ridjimiraril is mortally wounded by the spears. When he dies, the custom is that his brother inherits his wives, but these new responsibilities are more than the young man expects" (from http://australianscreen.com.au/).

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