Several aboriginal Australians are shown gathered in the bush, reaping the rewards of a captured kangaroo as wisps of smoke from a dwindling fire are lost in the gray facade of yesterday. Back to reality, and patience wanes amongst the small crowd of aboriginal people surrounding a dejected grocery store, its perimeters riddled with wandering paper bags and empty water bottles. A man on the outskirts of the crowd shouts into a megaphone, “Our children are hungry. Open the store.” At last, the doors open and the group files in, eager to secure food for the day. Tomorrow, they’ll be back in the same spot.
Where once they were a self-sustaining tribe, the Yolngu community’s traditional lifestyle was disrupted when the Australian government stepped in. Now living in a white man’s world, the Yolngu people struggle to hold onto their culture, surrounded by unfamiliar laws and practices that are quickly diminishing the customs of the community’s past.
Narrator David Gulpilil takes us to his homeland of Ramingining, a remote community of aboriginal Australians in the northern part of the country. Gulpilil has made a name for himself on the big screen, but his purpose in Another Country is to voice the troublesome reality of a culture embedded in age-old traditions forced to conform to Western ideologies.
“To know what’s best for us, you have to know us. No one from any government has ever known our language. How can they know us?”
OVID.tv’s ANOTHER COUNTRY Questions Self-Determination vs. Government Determination
“The government came in. They said, "we’ll take over now, you black fellas have to have self-determination.""
It wasn’t long after the Australian government demanded councils to be formed that they themselves were running the councils while building a school and store.
Gulpilil narrates in fragments, oftentimes letting scenes play out and allowing for his points to sink in. Much of the film’s audio is natural sound, as we only need to interpret the scenes visually to understand the current situation in Ramingining.
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“We never had rubbish. Everything comes from the bush. Everything goes back to the bush.”
As Gulpilil says this, a child and a woman are seen wandering through a junkyard, skeletons of cars jumbled together with metal scraps, thrown-out chairs, faded signs. It’s a gallery of trash exemplifying the material possessions of the Western world, an assortment of junk that the Yolngu would never contribute to if it weren’t for the involuntary cultural infusion.
Director Molly Reynolds accentuates the glaring cultural differences through extended scenes of Yolngu children performing traditional dances to dispiriting shots of a woman sitting under the shade of the lone store surrounded by debris taking up the rest of the frame.
Another Country is a documentary well-suited for those who want to learn more or are interested in native lands and peoples. It challenges our boundaries and calls to question valuable lessons about our own cultures and to what extent they should be shared.
Director: Molly Reynolds
Writers: David Gulpilil, Rolf de Heer, and Molly Reynolds
Cinematography: Matt Nettheim
Sound Design and Recording: Jamie Currie and Tom Heuzenroeder
Producers: Peter Djigirr, Rolf de Heer, and Molly Reynolds
To watch this film, visit the Ovid.tv page for ANOTHER COUNTRY.
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Images courtesy of OVID.tv