10 Canoes, 150 spears and 3 wives

A movie like you've never seen! This is the first production written and performed by Aborigines in their own language. Recommended for backpacker film buffs eager for discovery, but also for all those who have kept their faculties of wonder intact. Keep your eyes open, this Christmas tale arrives straight from the Australian Outback on December 20. An unidentified filmic object, to restore a virginity of the gaze ...

The first Aboriginal film

Attention, cinematic UFO! 10 Canoes, 150 spears and 3 wives, Special Jury Prize “Un Certain Regard” at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, has already entered the history of cinema. It is indeed the first film written and performed by Aborigines, in their language. The film was shot in a region of northern Australia, east of Darwin: Arafura swamp, an almost virgin area of ​​130 hectares, where we find a very rich fauna, especially birds. and crocodiles, among the largest in the world.
Born from an idea of ​​the aboriginal actor David Gulpilil, 10 Canoës ... tells an ancestral legend, not devoid of humor, about redemption and forgiveness. It takes place at the dawn of time and resuscitates a whole section of the culture of the first inhabitants of Australia. The story is "biblically" simple: a young man, Dayindi, covets one of his older brother's three wives, Ridjimaril. To bring Dayindi to his senses and make him respect tribal custom, sage Minygululu tells him a story of lust, forbidden love, kidnapping, vengeance and witchcraft. This story is at the origin of the Law, the foundation of society.

Discovering the Yolngus

10 Canoes, 150 spears and 3 wives bathe in the waters of a mythology from the antipodes, emerging from a swamp where dead souls sleep. It feels like some sort of Totem and taboo with aboriginal sauce, an origins story in many ways fascinating. Filmmaker Rolf de Heer (The Old Man Who Read Romance Novels; Dance Me To My Song) pays homage to the Yolngu people, whose way of life has now practically disappeared. He was also inspired by the research of anthropologist Donald Thompson who worked in Northern Australia in the 1930s. His black and white photos, kept at the superb Victoria Museum in Melbourne, cover many aspects of Yolngu culture. An anthropological treasure, the last trace of a submerged universe ...
Today, the Yolngus, a nomadic hunter-gatherer people, still inhabit Arnhem County, which includes the Arafura Marsh. Many of them were slaughtered at the start of the 10th century by white cattle ranchers. Their way of life has been changed: abandoning nomadism, they are now sedentary, live in modern houses and surf the Internet. Despite everything, they kept their matrimonial rules and certain ceremonies reproduced in XNUMX Canoes, such as the dance of death to accompany the last days of a dying person. The language, or rather the languages ​​of the Yolngu are also very much alive. These are the ones we hear in the film: the ganalbingu, the mandalpingu and the maningrida. Even today, English is little used and poorly mastered by the Yolngus.

A forum for an endangered culture

A philosophical fable, 10 Canoës has a significant documentary dimension. Rolf de Heer's film notably introduces us to Aboriginal craftsmanship and ancestral traditions such as hunting wild geese and collecting their eggs. The traditional accessories (spears, bracelets, etc.) that can be seen were all made by the Yolngus. The film also shows how canoes are made. The shooting, which lasted three months, was a real adventure, since it took place almost with the feet in swamps infested by mosquitoes, leeches and especially crocodiles. The making-of of 10 Canoes would undoubtedly make a great spectacle on its own.
Both realistic and contemplative, 10 Canoës pays homage to the aboriginal people who speak here. The formal success of Rolf de Heer's film is undeniable, as is the cinematic feat that is behind it. We can only welcome the production process: this film, which has toured the world, offers a remarkable platform for the first peoples of Australia, too often considered as second-class citizens and whose culture is on the way. extinction. You have to embark on these canoes, if only for the pleasure of marveling at this terra incognita that is, for us, the aboriginal universe.

The film

10 Canoes, 150 spears and 3 brides (10 Canoes)

Director: Rolf de Heer.
Co-director: Peter Djigirr.
Scenario: the inhabitants of Ramingining (Arnhem) and Rolf de Heer.
Interpretation: Crusoe Kurddal, Jamie Dayindi Gulpilil, Richard Birrinbirrin…
Duration: 1 31.
Release in France: December 20, 2006.
Special Jury Prize “Un Certain Regard”, Cannes Film Festival 2006.

On the Web

Department of Aboriginal Collections at the Victoria Museum in Melbourne:

To read

The Aborigines of Australia, by Stephen Mueke and Adam Shoemaker, Gallimard Editions, Discovery Collection, 128 pages.

Audio Video 10 Canoes, 150 spears and 3 wives
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