A spirited 8-year-old girl deals with the grief of her mother's death by forging a bond with a wild emu. This spiritual dreaming is a bond she will do anything to keep, but one that puts her at odds with the new social worker.
Emu Runner is a lyrical story about the impact a mother's death has on an Aboriginal family living in an isolated community, which is perched on an ancient river and surrounded by sprawling plains. The story is seen through the eyes of Gem, a spirited 8-year-old girl, who deals with the grief of her mother's death by forging a bond with a wild emu, a mythical bird of her ancestors. This spiritual dreaming is a bond she will do anything to keep, but one that puts her at odds with the new social worker.
Jane Schoettle, International Programmer at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), said of this film: "The film is so beautifully made - deceptively simple and yet with so many resonant layers of meaning. The photography is beautiful, and the script is spare, making every word meaningful. While all of the cast is compelling, Rhae-Kye Waites as Gem is amazing - I've not been able to get her performance out of my mind (not that I'd want to-!) - she has an onscreen charisma that is rare. Many of the images from the film have stayed with me and I know this will be especially true for all audiences, but perhaps even more for our significant Indigenous audience. Having recently lost an older female family member, the film really moved me on many levels." See more »
Emu Runner is a story about a nine-year-old Indigenous girl, Gem Daniels (Rhae-Kye Waites), who lives in a remote Australian town. As she copes with her mother's unexpected death, Gem finds solace in the company of a wild emu, unwittingly connecting with her mother's traditional totem animal.
Death can be a tough subject to discuss, especially when putting a child front and centre. The way Imogen Thomas tackles this and the different stages within the subject, while never denying the discrimination and misunderstanding/prejudice the Indigenous population in Australia have to deal with on a daily basis, is done tactful and with respect for the traditional customs in modern Indigenous culture, and looks beyond what's on the surface.
I couldn't be more happy watching a film with a diverse cast, telling a story in a way everyone can understand, while educating its audience and bathing it in a colourful culture most of us didn't grow up with. It's time for white Australia to give attention to the Aboriginal heart that lies within the country.
Although the acting isn't as strong all around, young actress Waites delivers her lines with such innocence and natural emotion, you'll forgive her supporting cast members coming across a bit wooden. What helps is the way director Imogen Thomas and her DOP Michael Gibbs give the nature of the isolated community of Brewarrina country, that surrounds them, an authentic voice. Like breathing life into the silence that fills the voids. Birds chirping, wind blowing, the sun rising and stars shining bright above a crackling fire, all works as supporting characters, which makes you wonder once more how much we take nature for granted. Simply stunning.
Emu Runner might not be for everyone of us, since it's narratively a bit thin, but it does a bang up job in telling the story it wants to tell, with people that are clearly passionate and driven. Your voices have been heard, and I hope more "white fellas" give this film a chance, in supporting Indigenous storytelling. Imogen Thomas' directorial feature debut puts a rightful stamp on Australian cinema. Can't wait to see what she brings next.
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