Shifting Sands - My Colour, Your Kind: Born into light

Title:
Shifting Sands - My Colour, Your Kind: Born into light
NFSA ID:
370994
Year:
1998
Category:
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 young albino girl (Melissa Middleton) is walking along a desert road and a truck pulls up beside her. The driver (Rob Wenske) asks if she wants a lift. In flashback, a nun (Sylvia Merrick) reads from the bible and in the background two dark-skinned Aboriginal girls (Amanda Nardoo, Deanne Willets) are sweeping. The girls pause to take in the scene of the albino girl who appears to be the captive audience of the nun.

Summary by Romaine Moreton.

The lightness and the darkness are themes that are drawn out in Danielle MacLean’s short drama about an albino Aboriginal girl trapped between two cultures by virtue of a skin condition that robs her of family and community belonging. The two Aboriginal girls of darker complexion are positioned as being of greater distance from civility than the white-skinned albino girl, whom the nun believes should be different from the rest because she is light.

My Colour, Your Kind Synopsis

A young albino Aboriginal girl (Melissa Middleton) escapes from a convent to return to her mother, her story unfolding in flashback during this journey.

My Colour, Your Kind Curator's Notes

Albino girl (as described in the credits) gives a deeply silent performance. We meet the Indigenous albino girl as she is being smeared by her brown-skinned mother (Christine Palmer). When under threat of having their children stolen by authorities, Indigenous mothers resorted to making their fair-skinned children appear darker by smearing them with mud, charcoal and any other darkening agent. The mud smearing is reminiscent of one of the final scenes of Rabbit Proof Fence (2002), where the girls, returning home, are smeared with charcoal by their mother and grandmother.

The symbolism employed by writer/director Danielle MacLean is truly poetic and painful, by contextualising this story in the era of assimilation policies and child removal policies, MacLean exposes the artificiality of basing such government programs on skin complexion, and indeed, the insubstantial base of racism itself. MacLean’s use of the mud smearing is brilliant, as its economy of meaning propels the audience into the history of scientific dictum that has shaped the lives and experience of all Indigenous peoples in the land now known as Australia. The mud smearing in this light represents much; the desire to keep family together, maintaining cultural practices and beliefs, and simply, a mother’s longing to keep her child safe. The application of scientific theories that positioned Indigenous peoples as primitive and destined to die out in the face of western civilization was reflected in the government polices implemented that sought to remove fair-skinned Indigenous children from their parents due to the belief that such children were both a danger to the state, as well as in danger themselves.

My Colour Your Kind was nominated for an AFI Award – Best Screenplay in a Short Film, 1998; a Gold Award for Flickerfest 99 8th International Film Festival and Best Cinematography, 8th Festival of Pacific Arts, 2000.

Notes by Romaine Moreton

Education Notes

This clip shows a young albino Aboriginal girl (Melissa Middleton) walking along a path in a dry landscape. The scene is intercut with close-up shots of hands grinding ochre. The girl continues along a red dirt road as a truck approaches her. The vehicle stops and the girl accepts a lift. The driver questions her, but she neither looks at him nor responds. They pass an Aboriginal man hitchhiking, and the driver makes a derogatory comment about him. A voice-over begins; the camera reveals it to be the voice of a nun reading scripture to the girl in a flashback, as two other Aboriginal girls watch from a distance. The clip includes music.

Educational value points

  • In the film from which the clip is taken the main character’s albinism can be seen as a visual device that underlines the isolation many Indigenous people experience due to their being ‘outside’ mainstream society. Extended family and kinship ties are central to Indigenous identity and help define social relationships and obligations, as well as a person’s connection to and responsibility for the land. In being separated from family and community, some members of the Stolen Generations were denied this knowledge, which in turn meant a loss of culture and identity.
  • Indigenous filmmaker Danielle MacLean uses the main character’s albinism to highlight her isolation. Her skin pigment sets her apart from other darker skinned Indigenous people such as the two young Indigenous girls dressed in mission clothing shown performing manual work. To the white nun, who assumes a hierarchy of colour privileging white over black, she is different from those girls. The ‘Albino girl’, as she is named in the credits, is not black or white, but is trapped in limbo between cultures.
  • The clip emphasises colour and its ramifications, both through the visual content and the script. The clip juxtaposes a scene of the girl walking through the red landscape with a close-up of dark hands crushing red ochre, which is used in Indigenous ceremonies as body paint. The non-Indigenous truck driver assumes that the girl is white, and the passage of scripture that the nun reads to the girl emphasises that ‘you were once darkness but now you are light in the Lord’.
  • The narrative of this short film explores the consequences of taking Aboriginal children from their families and having them raised by the church. In church-run mission schools it was believed that the welfare of Indigenous children would be improved through conversion to Christianity. The image of the young Albino girl walking alone on an isolated track in an attempt to return home to her mother is presented by the filmmaker as a challenge to this belief.
  • Albinism is an inherited condition in which the skin lacks the pigment melanin. Albinism may affect the eyes only or the eyes, hair and skin. Albinos usually appear to be very pale, with white skin and hair, and may experience problems associated with the condition such as sensitivity to the sun. The main difficulty facing people who suffer from albinism is ignorance of the condition.

Education notes provided by The Learning Federation and Education Services Australia

Production company:
CAAMA Productions
Producer:
Steve McGregor
Supervising producer:
Graeme Isaac
Writer/Director:
Danielle Maclean
Acknowledgements:
Produced with the assistance of the Indigenous Branch of the Australian Film Commission

A young albino Aboriginal girl walks along a path in a dry landscape. The scene is intercut with close-up shots of hands grinding ochre. The girl continues along a red dirt road as a truck approaches her. The vehicle stops and the girl accepts a lift. The driver questions her, but she neither looks at him nor responds. 
Driver Oi! Want a lift? Fair way out of town. Where are you heading? What’s the matter – lost your tongue?
They pass an Aboriginal man hitchhiking.
Driver Won’t bother wasting my time picking him up. Be better company, though. At least he’d talk.

A voice-over begins; the camera reveals it to be the voice of a nun reading scripture to the girl in a flashback, as two other Aboriginal girls watch from a distance. The other Aboriginal girls are sweeping.
Nun God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore, do not be partners with them for you were once darkness but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness but rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible for it is the light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said…
The nun abruptly stops talking. The girls can be heard whispering in the background.