Covet not the senior tribesman’s wife. Most perfectly realised of the many films Dutch expat Rolf de Heer has made in Australia, this time with Aboriginal story-tellers in the Northern Territory. Special Jury Prize Cannes.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2006
Let us now praise the men and women who spent weeks in the bush of Arnhem Land in the Australian Northern Territory and waded waist deep through tropical swamp alive with mosquitoes, leeches and crocodiles to give us the awesomely beautiful Ten Canoes. Unquestionably the best, most perfectly realised of the many films Dutch expat Rolf de Heer has made in Australia, Ten Canoes was developed in collaboration with traditional communities living in Raminining. It tells their stories and is spoken in their dialects, although David Gulpilil provides an amusingly nonchalant English narration. As a group of Aboriginal tribesmen sets out on an annual goose-egg-gathering expedition, an elder pointedly regales his restless young companion with an ancient tale about a young man desiring the youthful wife of a senior tribesman... Breathtakingly shot in CinemaScope, the film is remarkably successful at using different colour treatments and camera styles to distinguish layers of time: events in living memory echo those in historical time and all are folded into the archetypal tales of the dreamtime. If any film demands to be seen on the giant screen, this mesmerising vision of time outside time is the one.
“If the moral of Ten Canoes is familiar, the getting there is anything but. To watch this is to enter into a whole new language of symbols and meaning, the likes of which I have rarely encountered in cinema... Ten Canoes is a celebration of the art of storytelling, and of the power of stories to transcend all barriers of space and time and language. This is a movie with sheer magic in it.” — Scott Foundas, LA Weekly
“Funny, touching, deliciously ironic and sincerely felt all at the same time.” — Geoff Andrew, Time Out