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Heartfelt account of life in Mutijulu

Kanyini, Running Time: 53 minutes, Rating: PG
Director: Melanie Hogan, Starring: Bob Randall, website

KanyiniPublicity material for this Australian doco quotes current affairs TV presenter George Negus, who says ‘anyone coming cold to the story of Australia's indigenous disgrace will no longer be ignorant’. And it’s true: while there is little in the film not on the public record, it is nonetheless a deeply affecting and compelling account, largely because it’s related from—rather than on behalf of—the indigenous perspective.

Hogan initially travelled to Mutitjulu, an Aboriginal community near Uluru, to make an anti petrol-sniffing documentary on behalf of the Mutitjulu Community Health Clinic. Her subject took on greater proportions when she met community leader Bob Randall, a traditional owner of Uluru and former Indigenous Person of the Year. ‘Uncle’ Bob’s insightful and passionate commentary on indigenous Australia’s 'black' history quickly became the film’s focus.

This is not a carefully-crafted advocacy doco featuring an impassioned but concisely scripted auteur or celebrity sympathiser. Rather, it is one man’s heartfelt account of the systematic oppression of his people by white colonisers—from the genocide of early colonisation, through the Stolen Generation of the 20th century, up to the present day, where many indigenous Australians suffer extreme poverty, substance addiction and dependence on a seemingly uncaring welfare system.

Uncle Bob’s narration overlays black-and-white archival footage of Aborigines against the backdrop of the Australian outback, and grainy but evocative full-colour images of the central Australian landscape. Aided by this stirring imagery, Bob’s melodious tones draw the viewer deeply into his description of the indigenous concept, Kanyini—a holistic sense of ‘connectedness’ that encompasses one’s family, belief system, spirituality and relationship with the land.

His explanation of how white colonisation systematically broke these connections—leaving many Australian Aborigines alienated and marginalised within the land of their ancestors—will be nothing short of a revelation for white Australians who’ve struggled to appreciate the extent to which Aboriginal culture has been undermined.

KanyiniAt 53 minutes, Kanyini offers little in the way of solutions to Aboriginal Australia’s current predicament, or how White Australia can make amends for the wrongs of the past. What it does offer is a memorable catalyst to reflection, and the suggestion that by learning from each other (Bob posits Kanyini as an antidote to self-absorbed, consumerist Western culture), we can move towards a more unified Australia. In this respect it is somewhat idealistic, and will most likely find its audience among those who are already sympathetic to the Aboriginal plight.

Screening with Kanyini is the short film Mimi (PG), directed by indigenous filmmaker Warwick Thornton and starring Sophie Lee, Aaron Pederson and David Gulpilil.



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