While his father takes a catch of fish to sell in town, Mike (Greg Rowe) discovers some illegal hunters shooting birds. An Aboriginal stranger, Fingerbone Bill (David Gulpilil), drives them away with a warning shot. Mike tried to hide but Bill asks him to come and see if the hunters hit anything.
Summary by Paul Byrnes
A striking and romantic introduction of the Aboriginal character as a man of action, courage and humour, and overall protector of life.
The use of long lenses on the shots of Gulpilil approaching across the marshes makes these shots very powerful and symbolic. Interesting also for the way it situates the two characters within the landscape, as part of it.
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 Mike Kingsley (Greg Rowe) meeting 'Fingerbone’ Bill (David Gulpilil) in the Coorong wetlands, after Bill drives away two illegal hunters. Fingerbone Bill tells Mike 'You run like a blackfella’ and dubs him 'Storm Boy’. The two trek through the wetland to see if the hunters have shot anything and discover a pelican’s nest with three freshly hatched chicks and, nearby, a dead adult pelican. These scenes are intercut with shots of fisherman 'Hideaway’ Tom (Peter Cummins), who is Mike’s father. He is shown unloading the morning’s catch from a small boat and carting it across the main street of the town to a fish shop.
Education notes provided by The Learning Federation and Education Services Australia
Two hunters are walking out of the water towards some bushes when they are shot at. They run for cover. Mike is in the bush when Fingerbone Bill walks towards him holding a rifle. The boy ducks down in the grass.
Fingerbone Bill Are you coming boy? See if they hit something.
Mike’s father walks down a pier and jumps into his fishing boat. A man greets him from the pier.
Man Good morning.
Mike’s father Morning.
Man What have you got today?
Mike’s father Cockles and mullet.
Man Could you spare us a couple of mullet?
Mike’s father hands over some fish.
Man Ah, good. How much do you want for them?
Mike’s father Oh, you can pay me on my way back.
Mike is following Fingerbone Bill in the bush.
Fingerbone Bill What’s your name?
Mike does not respond.
Fingerbone Bill Storm Boy! You run like a blackfella – like the wind. I’m Fingerbone Bill. Do you live here with your people?
Mike Just my dad. Mum’s dead.
Fingerbone Bill Lonely place.
Mike I don’t mind.
Mike’s father is walking through the centre of town with his catch, heading towards the fish shop.
Mike and Fingerbone Bill are approaching the place they spotted the hunters. There is a sound of chirping birds. They find a nest with newly hatched baby pelicans.
Fingerbone Bill Got a big fright. All that shooting going on.
Mike Do you think the old ones will find ‘em?
Fingerbone Bill points to a dead bird in the water.
Fingerbone Bill Big blow coming up tonight. You kill pelican, the sky come up with the storm.