From Sand to Celluloid - Two Bob Mermaid: Crossing the street

From Sand to Celluloid - Two Bob Mermaid: Crossing the street
WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following clip may contain images and voices of deceased persons
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A small hut nestled in the hills. Koorine (Carrie Prosser) is sitting and writing by the light of a lamp. Her brother teases her as he walks past. Koorine fantasises about being a glamorous swimmer. Aboriginal kids, Koorine amongst them, walk up the street laughing. Koorine sees May (Megan Drury) on the other side of the street. She crosses the road to speak to her white friends. Koorine’s mother’s boyfriend (David Page) pulls up in a truck, and all the Aboriginal kids except Koorine get into the back. Koorine instead walks off with her white friends.

Summary by Romaine Moreton

Koorine is a character who represents a moment in history where Indigenous people would identify as another race in order to gain access to public areas and privileges, or just to avoid vilification. The whole idea of 'passing’ is still an active part of Aboriginal identity.

Two Bob Mermaid Synopsis

A short drama, set in the 1950s, about an Aboriginal girl Koorine (Carrie Prosser) who is fair skinned and gains access to the local swimming pool where Aboriginal people are legally denied access.

Two Bob Mermaid Curator's Notes

Two Bob Mermaid is the directorial debut of Darlene Johnson. It is the story of Koorine (Carrie Prosser), a fair skinned Indigenous girl who ‘passes’ – allowing people to think you are white. Koorine dreams of becoming a famous swimmer. The title of the film refers to Esther William’s film Million Dollar Mermaid, a 'two bob’ mermaid creating a correlation between class and dreams. In order to achieve her dream Koorine lets the townspeople think that she is white so that she can gain access to the local swimming pool from which Aboriginal peoples are banned.

Two Bob Mermaid is visually stunning, and Johnson manages to tell quite a political story through the eyes of a child, whose innocent tendency to dream is restricted by the political restrictions imposed upon Aboriginal people during the period the film is set (1950s). The banning from swimming pools was a reality for Indigenous people up until racism was outlawed in Australia. Dr Charles Perkins during the Freedom Rides of 1967 encouraged Indigenous people to fight the bans. Indigenous peoples were made citizens of this country after the 1967 referendum.

Notes by Romaine Moreton

Production company:
Core Films
Antonia Barnard
Supervising producer:
Graeme Isaac
Darlene Johnson
Darlene Johnson
Produced with the assistance of the Indigenous Branch of the Australian Film Commission