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Rolf de Heer on working with an Indigenous community

By ACMI, 2009 3:02 minutes

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Rolf de Heer visited the Yolngu people in north-eastern Arnhem Land to find out the stories they wanted to tell about themselves and their culture. Ten Canoes, the film that resulted from this dialogue, was inspired by a photograph taken by white anthropologist Donald Thomson. De Heer’s obligation to deliver the colour film he was contracted to make conflicted with the Yolngu people’s expectation that he would tell their story in the style of the treasured Thomson photographs. This tension was resolved by a structural decision to use two different, intertwined narrative styles. Ten Canoes is made entirely in the language of the Yolngu people, a language marked by repetition and a gradual accumulation of information.

Collection Screen Worlds

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