Promotional movie poster for the film
|Directed by||Rolf de Heer
|Produced by||Rolf de Heer
|Written by||Rolf de Heer|
|Narrated by||David Gulpilil|
|Edited by||Tania Nehme|
|Distributed by||Palace Films|
|29 June 2006|
Ten Canoes is a 2006 Australian film directed by Rolf de Heer and Peter Djigirr and starring Crusoe Kurddal. The title of the film arose from discussions between de Heer and David Gulpilil about a photograph of ten canoeists poling across the Arafura Swamp, taken by anthropologist Donald Thomson in 1936. It is the first ever movie entirely filmed in Australian Aboriginal languages.
The film is set in Arnhem Land, in a time before Western contact, and tells the story of a group of ten men hunting goose eggs. The leader of the group, Minygululu, tells the young Dayindi (Jamie Gulpilil) a story about another young man even further back in time who, like Dayindi, coveted his elder brother's youngest wife. The sequences featuring Dayindi and the hunt are in black and white, while shots set in distant past are in colour. All protagonists speak in indigenous languages of the Yolŋu Matha language group, with subtitles. The film is narrated in English by David Gulpilil, although versions of the film without narration, and featuring narration in Yolŋu Matha, are also available.
Minygululu tells a story of the great warrior Ridjimiraril, who suspects a visiting stranger of kidnapping his second wife. In a case of mistaken identity, Ridjimiraril kills a member of a neighbouring tribe. To prevent all-out war, tribal laws dictate that the offending tribe allow the offender to be speared from a distance by the tribe of the slain man. The offender is allowed to be accompanied by a companion, and he takes his younger brother. Whenever one of the two is hit, the spear-throwers will stop, and justice will have been served. Ridjimiraril is hit and mortally wounded but survives long enough to return to his camp, where he is tended to by his eldest wife. After he finally succumbs, the elder brother's kidnapped second wife finds her way back to the camp. She reveals that she had been kidnapped by a different tribe, much farther away and had taken this long to return. She mourns her lost husband, who had attacked the wrong tribe, though now she and the elder wife take his younger brother as their new husband. The younger brother, who was only interested in the youngest of the three wives, now has to care for all of them, and satisfying their many and constant demands is much more than he bargained for.
Minygululu tells this story in the hope that Dayindi learns of the added responsibilities of a husband and elder statesman in the tribe, and in the end we see Dayindi withdrawing from his pursuit of Minygululu's young wife.
Cast and crew
- Crusoe Kurddal – Ridjimiraril
- Jamie Gulpilil – Dayindi/Yeeralparil
- Richard Birrinbirrin – Birrinbirrin
- Peter Minygululu – Minygululu
- Frances Djulibing – Banalandju
- David Gulpilil – The Storyteller
- Sonia Djarrabalminym – Nowalingu
- Cassandra Malangarri Baker – Munandjarra
- Philip Gudthaykudthay – The Sorcerer
- Peter Djigirr – Canoeist/The Victim/Warrior
- Michael Dawu – Canoeist/The Stranger
- Bobby Bunungurr – Canoeist/Uncle
- Johnny Buniyira – Canoeist/Warrior
- Gil Birmingham – Canoeist/Warrior
- Steven Wilinydjanu Maliburr – Canoeist/Warrior
Ten Canoes won the Un Certain Regard Special Jury Prize at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. De Heer rejected claims he is a white director making an indigenous story: "People talk about, what is a white director doing making an indigenous story? They're telling the story, largely, and I'm the mechanism by which they can." Ten Canoes was screened at the Sydney Film Festival in June 2006 and was released nationally on 29 June 2006.
In October 2006 Ten Canoes was chosen as Australia's official entry into the Best Foreign Language Film category for the 2007 Academy Awards, thus becoming the third Australian film to be considered for the award. following Floating Life in 1996 and La Spagnola in 2001.
Ten Canoes was nominated for seven Australian Film Institute (AFI) awards, of which it won six. The movie won the awards for Best Picture (Julie Ryan, Rolf de Heer producers), Best Director (Rolf de Heer and Peter Djigirr), Best Screenplay - Original (Rolf de Heer), Best Cinematography (Ian Jones), Best Editing (Tania Nehme), and Best Sound (James Currie, Tom Heuzenroeder, Michael Bakaloff, and Rory McGregor). It was also nominated for Best Production Design (Beverly Freeman).
It won three awards from the Film Critics Circle of Australia: Best Film, Best Editing (Tania Nehme), and Best Cinematography (Ian Jones). (The latter award was a tie with David Williamson's work on Jindabyne.) The film was also nominated for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. The Balanda and the Bark Canoes—a documentary that aired on Australian network SBS and which detailed de Heer's experiences making the film—won Best Australian Short Documentary for de Heer, Tania Nehme, and Molly Reynolds. The documentary explores the interplay between cultures in a film project immersing a Balanda (white man) into the intricacies of kinship systems impacting the casting of the film as well as giving some voice to the inner conflicts of indigenous peoples today caught between the world of their heritage and that of modern life. This aspect has been explored by academic D. Bruno Starrs with regard to the "authentic Aboriginal voice".
At the end of 2006, the film stood as one of the highest grossing Australian films of that year. By October it had made just over $3,000,000 from a budget of $2,200,000.
- Arafura Swamp, Northern Territory, Australia
- Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia
- Ramingining, Northern Territory, Australia
- Won AFI Award for Best Cinematography, Best Direction, Best Editing, Best Film, Best Original Screenplay, Best Sound—2006
- Nominated AFI Award for Best Production Design—2006
- Won Special Jury Prize, Cannes Film Festival—2006
- Won FCCA Award for Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Film—2006
- Nominated FCCA Award for Best Director, Best Original Screenplay—2006
- Won Grand Prix Award, Ghent International Film Festival—2006
- Won IF Awards for Best Actor (Crusoe Kurddal), Best Cinematography, Best Director—2006
- Nominated IF Awards for Best Feature Film, Best Script, Best Sound—2006
- Nominated Mar del Plata Film Festival for Best Film—2007
- Won NatFilm Festival for Audience Award
- Nominated Satellite Award for Best Motion Picture
Ten Canoes grossed $3,511,649 at the box office in Australia.
- Cinema of Australia
- South Australian Film Corporation
- Atanarjuat, a 2001 Canadian film entirely in Inuktitut by Inuit actors, also about an ancestral aboriginal legend also involving the sexual jealousy of brothers.
- Thomsom, Donald; Nicolas Peterson (ed.) (2006). Donald Thomson in Arnhem Land (Reprint ed.). Melbourne: Miegunyah Press. p. 249 p. ISBN 0-522-85205-X.
- Gibson, Joel (8 April 2007). "Reclaiming the past can be personal". The Sydney Morning Herald. p. 2. Retrieved 9 April 2007.
- "Festival de Cannes: Ten Canoes". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 16 December 2009.
- article "Keeping Time with Rolf", by Michael Fitzgerald, in Time magazine, 13 March 2006
- Starrs, D. Bruno. "The authentic Aboriginal voice in Rolf de Heer's 'Ten Canoes'", 'Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture', 7.3, 2007. http://reconstruction.eserver.org/Issues/073/starrs.shtml
- "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema – 72. Ten Canoes". Empire.
- Film Victoria - Australian Films at the Australian Box Office
- Official website at Palace Films
- Ten Canoes at the Internet Movie Database
- Ten Canoes at AllMovie
- Ten Canoes at the National Film and Sound Archive
- The Balanda and the Bark Canoes (Making Ten Canoes) streamed on demand from Beamafilm