Ten Canoes

Poster for Ten Canoes

Autumn 2007 Main series

Sunday, September 23, 2007 at 4:00pm
Sunday, September 23, 2007 at 7:00pm
Monday, September 24, 2007 at 7:00pm

Acadia Cinema's Al Whittle Theatre
450 Main Street, Wolfville, NS

Directed by Rolf de Heer and Peter Djigirr

Starring Jamie Gulpilil, Richard Birrinbirrin, Peter Minygululu, Frances Djulibing, David Gulpili, and Johnny Buniyira

Rated PG · 1h 30m
Yolngu Matha and English

View trailer

The phenomenal Ten Canoes was the recipient of the Special Jury Prize at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival and swept the 2006 Australian Film Institute Awards, winning six categories including Best Film, Best Direction and Best Cinematography. Filmmakers Rolf de Heer (Alexandra’s Project, The Tracker) and Peter Djigirr have accomplished something extraordinary: they use the contemporary moving image to honour oral tradition and the result is a riveting celebration of both art forms. Collaborating closely with the Ramingining Aboriginal community of the Arnhem Land in Australia’s Northern Territory, the film is part ethnography, part anthropology and, above all, a rollicking good time.

There are two stories — one framed within the other — in Ten Canoes. The first takes place one thousand years ago and the second a long time before that — just after “the Beginning,” in fact. The first tale starts with Dayindi (Jamie Gulpilil), a young man who covets the wife of his much older brother Minygululu (Peter Minygululu). While ten of the village men are on a trip to harvest bark to make canoes, Minygululu takes the opportunity to tell a story from the even more distant past in order to instruct his younger brother on the proper way to live.

The parable from the past is filled with forbidden love, sex, sorcery, gluttony, war, kidnapping and revenge. With the aid of a narrator (renowned actor David Gulpilil) who both sets the tone and acts as a cultural guide, we move between the two narratives with ease and pleasure. The core lesson within both stories is one of respect for one’s culture and the laws that bind it, but there is little that is pretentious in Ten Canoes. Men make ribald comments about sexual performance, first wives gossip about second and third wives, and they all poke fun at the roly-poly elder Birrinbirrin (Richard Birrinbirrin) and his passion for honey.

Sumptuously shot by award winning cinematographer Ian Jones (Alexandra’s Project, The Tracker), Ten Canoes offers a visual feast of Australia’s majestic beauty. This humorous and mythical tale gives us a clearer appreciation of a little-understood culture.