Directed by Rolf de Heer and narrated by David Gulpilil, Ten Canoes is the first Australian feature film to showcase entirely Aboriginal languages.
Set in Arnhem Land before European colonisation, the film centres around a group of men on a traditional hunting exhibition. The leader of the group shares a story of his ancestors and the land, recounting a tale of forbidden love and gruesome retribution intended to educate his fellow men and family.
Assisting this story-within-a-story structure is the film's unique use of colour. The monochromatic sequences highlight the group in the present setting, whereas the colour sequences highlight the mythic story unfolding in the distant past.
All the protagonists speak in Yolngu Matha language, though David Gulpilil’s captivating narration is spoken in English. The film also includes stunning cinematography and traditional music and a sound design featuring the natural sounds of the bush.
The film balances an emphasis on cultural authenticity with great storytelling, humour and wit, making it one of the most impressive doco-drama style films to come out of this country.
‘Both ethnographic document and high-spirited flight of whimsy: a curious mixture of entertainment and anthropology’ – Luke Buckmaster, The Guardian
See more films in our David Gulpilil season.