Digeridoo in Ten Canoes
Ten Canoes follows the story of Dayindi (Jamie Gulpilil), a young Aboriginal warrior, as he wanders the wilderness hunting for eggs. The film showcases traditional Aboriginal languages and music, including non-diegetic didgeridoo cues that culturally and geographically correspond with the region where the narrative takes place and where the film was shot. Typically, within an Australian cinematic context the digeridoo functions as the dominant sonic signifier of Indigenous culture, despite the great diversity and plurality of Aboriginal and Torres Strait nations and cultures across the country, all of which have their own musical traditions and customs. Rather than being fused into a typical generically ethnic sound, the didgeridoo in the Ten Canoes connects directly with the characters, being either diegetically controlled and played by the Aboriginal characters or non-diegetically associated with the ancient Aboriginal history the story communicates.
This particular clip features the men preparing for a lunch of magpie-geese, cooked in the canoes on the swamp; the narrator returns to the climax of the old story. Ridjimiraril (Crusoe Kurddal) and his brother Yeeralparil (Jamie Gulpilil) must stand and face the spears of another clan, in payback for Ridjimiraril’s crime.
This is one of the only sections of the film in which director Rolf de Heer abandons the matter-of-fact realism he has used throughout. We hear a didgeridoo and the two men become opaque, like ghosts, as they dance to avoid the spears. The use of reverberation on the digeridoo helps to achieve a sense that the story is set in the distant past.