Mike (Greg Rowe) and his father (Peter Cummins) go to warn Fingerbone Bill (David Gulpilil) that trouble is brewing. Bill is not supposed to be living on a state reserve, and the ranger wants to talk to him.
Summary by Paul Byrnes
An unusually frank subtext of land rights. The initial sense of unease between the father and Bill is also very expressive of larger themes that the boy does not understand.
A 10-year-old boy (Greg Rowe), living with his father in the wild Coorong wetlands of South Australia, rescues a baby pelican orphaned by hunters. With the help of an Aboriginal man, Fingerbone Bill (David Gulpilil), the boy and the bird become inseparable, until the outside world encroaches.
Storm Boy, based on a novel by Colin Thiele, is one of the most cherished of Australian classic films. It has a deep emotional clarity that appeals to children and adults alike, making it timeless. The landscape of the Coorong wetlands, bleak and beautiful and windswept, becomes a refuge for the broken, the loveless and the outcast – an alternate Garden of Eden, in which a different version of Australia might seem possible – a kind of hermit’s utopia.
The film is clearly about much more than the boy’s love of the pelican, which he calls Mr Percival. It touches on race relations, ecology, the breakdown of families, white and black law and questions of prior ownership, but the themes are seamlessly woven into the story. Much of the power comes from the elemental beauty of Geoff Burton’s camerawork (his work on Sunday Too Far Away, with a different colour palette, has a similar expressiveness), and from director Henri Safran’s sensitive handling of the performances. The film was made for $260,000 and was a success at the box office, both in Australia and overseas, where it sold to more than 100 countries.
Notes by Paul Byrnes
This clip shows the national park ranger with 'Storm Boy’ (Greg Rowe), who has deliberately led him on a fruitless search of the wetlands for 'Fingerbone’ Bill. After the ranger leaves, Storm Boy and his father, 'Hideaway’ Tom Kingsley, go to Fingerbone Bill’s camp to warn him that the ranger is looking for him and might force him to move on. In the exchange that follows, the two men allude to land rights and the clash of white laws and black culture. Storm Boy, meanwhile, is eager to see that his father and Fingerbone Bill, both pivotal figures in his life, get on.
Education notes provided by The Learning Federation and Education Services Australia
We see Mike and the Ranger in a boat.
Ranger Well, where to now?
Mike shrugs his shoulders.
Ranger Do you mean to tell me you’ve lost your way? Never. You know the Coorong better than anyone. You don’t want to get your friend into trouble, eh? If you should run into him before I do, you tell him what I said – no more shooting.
Mike is left standing on a pier with Mr Percival as the Ranger drives off in his boat. Mike’s father is in another boat working on its engine.
Mike’s father Have to learn to keep your mouth shut, won’t you?
Mike nods at his father.
At his camp, Fingerbone Bill stabs a wooden stake into the ground. He looks up and sees Mike and his father walking towards him from the beach. Mike runs towards Bill holding a sack.
Mike’s father I’ve just come to tell you there’s trouble brewing. The Ranger wants to see you about the gun. There’s a law against people shacking in the sanctuary. He might tell you to move on.
Bill This country belong to him?
Mike’s father Maybe not. The law says you can’t stay.
Bill White fellas’ law.
Bill is sitting down on the sand and continues to carve a spear out of a wooden stick. He gestures to Mike and his father to sit down.
Mike You could move in with us. Couldn’t he dad?
Bill I like it here.
Mike Brought you something.
Mike hands the sack over to Bill and he opens it to find a fish.
Mike Proper big one, eh?
Mike Dad catched it.
Mike’s father Caught!
Mike’s father No need to make a song and dance about it, son.
Bill Proper number one tucker this.
Mike’s father Got him by the river mouth.
Bill Why don’t you stay, help me eat it?
Mike He cooks good, dad.
Bill Storm Boy like blackfella tucker.
Mike’s father Storm Boy. Is that you, is it?