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Rolf de Heer on Ten Canoes and Peter Djigirr

By ACMI, 2009 4:14 minutes

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Rolf de Heer talks about the opportunities that come with a low budget, both in terms of subject matter and creative freedom. He reflects on the invaluable contribution of co-director and Yolngu man Peter Djigirr to the making of the film. Djigirr was passionate about the film being made, and he knew how to work from inside his culture and its kinship structures to balance the requirements of the story being filmed and the cultural issues at stake for the Yolngu people.

Collection Screen Worlds


Discussion Points

Although making a feature film involves a great deal of collaboration, the director is the ‘go to’ person required to balance all of the separate aspects of the filmmaking equation.

When making Ten Canoes, there were a number of factors that de Heer, as an outsider, could not control, and he was fortunate to be able to work with Peter Djigirr as co-director.

Often non-Indigenous artists who try to represent Indigenous culture in their art are criticised for speaking on behalf of Indigenous people. Such practices can be seen as another form of colonisation.

  •     Think about the ways in which de Heer worked in order to avoid speaking for the Yolngu people.

De Heer has written about his experience of making films on Indigenous culture as a non-Indigenous man in his essay ‘Personal reflections on whiteness and three film projects’.

In this article, de Heer explains that the making of Ten Canoes became part of a personal journey towards a better understanding of the issues at stake.