|March 21 2001|
I would first like to acknowledge the Bama people, the original Aboriginal owners of the Cairns region.
Yolungu Boy is a tale of three Aboriginal boys from Arnhem Land emerging into manhood. It's often funny, sometimes troubling, energetically filmed, visually interesting and well worth seeing.
Adolescence is a troublesome time for all children, acceptance into the adult community isn't easy for anyone, and of course the boys are exuberant, naughty, well meaning and fun loving like all young people.
But these boys are part of a remote Aboriginal community and that makes them particularly interesting for those of us who are white fellas who have grown up in suburban white Australia. Their background includes a hunting tradition and their most treasured memories are the three of them hunting together.
The boys are very firm friends. One of the boys Milika (Nathan Daniels) is football mad and wants to play for Essendon. Lorrpu (John Sebastian Pilakue) is more seriously minded and is keen on being accepted by the elders as one of their own.
But Botj (Sean Mununggur) has a drunken dad, an estranged mum and a history of trouble with the law. Things get out of hand and much of Yolungu Boy tells of the boys travelling 300 kms by themselves to Darwin when things at home get difficult for Botj. And then the major theme emerges more strongly.
Yolungu Boy is largely about what traditional Aboriginal lore can offer to their people, especially since white society offers them so little. And here is where many white Australians may find much appeal.
We whites are generally a secular community. Our cathedrals these days are sports stadiums and our suicide rate is frightening. Something is wrong. Trusting and loving the land, having less reliance on material goods and respecting elders rings a loud bell at least in principal.
Yolungu Boy has a hell of a lot of charm on that level. The boys are terrific the Arnhem land scenery is spectacular and the filming style quick and incisive. Some of the acting is a little forced but generally Yolungu Boy is hugely entertaining, and is likely to encourage Australians to become optimistic.
4 Botj Flys
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Copyright Reserved Steve Baker 2001