Crossing Tracks - Harry’s War: Djaambi
Mitch (Peter Docker) and Harry (David Ngoombujarra) sit beneath the cover of a tree partly concealed by foliage. They are in the jungle of Papua New Guinea. They talk about raising money for Thomas’ (Glenn Shea) widow. Both men slowly draw on cigarettes. The sound of a mopoke echoes through the jungle. A mopoke or owl. Harry says that he has been waiting for him.
The infantry are gathered around a rock, discussing strategy. They talk about containing the nips. Flashback: Harry, mum (Christina Saunders, dad (Bob Maza), cousin (Pauline Whymen) and Keithy (Sam Kirby) meet the train pulled up to take Harry off to war. Harry bids his family farewell. Keithy runs to the nearest overhanging bridge, ‘Captain Djaambi!’. Present: the jungle of Kokoda; 2nd 14th infantry are stalking through the jungle, guns raised in expectation. Harry motions to Mitch. Harry, his eye focused on the barrel of his gun, has a Japanese soldier in his sights.
Summary by Romaine Moreton
Harry’s War is rich in symbology, with social history, camaraderie of the armed forces, and Indigenous cultural beliefs all woven through the narrative. The mopoke (owl) in this clip is in Harry Saunders’ culture is a messenger of death. Director Richard Frankland’s grandfather Christopher Saunders was a soldier in the First World War. His eldest son Reginald Walter Saunders served in the Second World War, and was serving in New Guinea when he became the first Aborigine to be promoted to commissioned ranks. Reginald’s brother Harry (whom the film Harry’s War is based on) was killed on the Kokoda Trail at the age of 18. Reg Saunders was awarded an MBE in 1971, and was appointed to the Council of the Australian War Memorial in July 1985.
Harry's War Synopsis
Harry Saunders (David Ngoombujarra) prepares to go to fight for his country in the Second World War, but his fight is also for the rights of the Indigenous people. Harry carries the hope that fighting for his country will make a difference for his family and his people; that fighting along side the white citizens of Australia will eventually help Indigenous people to win citizenship also.
Harry's War Curator's Notes
Harry Saunders goes to fight in the war with the hope that his participation will help win his people citizen’s rights and equality. Richard Frankland, writer and director of Harry’s Waris the third generation of Indigenous men to have served in the Australian army. Harry’s War was awarded the Jury Prize for Best Short Film at the Hollywood Black Film Festival in 2000.
‘When you have art you have voice, when you have voice you have freedom, with freedom of course comes responsibility.’
Appointed as senior advisor to the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody at the age of 25, Richard Frankland’s experience as a field officer for the Royal Commission greatly influences his work as a filmmaker, musician and artist. Frankland has been a fisher, soldier, politician, and continues to be an important voice within the political landscape of Indigenous affairs. Frankland founded the Your Voice political party and vied for a Senate seat in the state of Victoria in 2004.
Frankland’s other films include No Way to Forget, After Mabo and Who Killed Malcom Smith. An experienced songwriter and musician he performs with the Charcoal Club, and has also written for the follow works theatre: Conversations with the Dead, No Way to Forget, Who Killed Malcolm Smith?
Other films in the AFC Indigenous Branch drama initiative Crossing Tracks (1999) are Saturday Night, Sunday Morning and Wind.
Notes by Romaine Moreton