On stage, Baker Boy is the kind of rapper who can get a crowd airborne within seconds. He’s all ego, gold chains and boundless energy, flitting between his native Yolngu Matha and English, imploring the audience to “step back, feel the power of my blackness”. He commands the mic and didgeridoo as if they’re extensions of his tall, agile frame, and inverts himself mid-flow with audacious breakdancing moves.
He is the first Indigenous artist to have mainstream success rapping in the Yolngu Matha language, his singles Cloud 9 and Marryuna receiving solid Triple J airplay. In the past few months he has swept the National Indigenous Music awards, inked a record deal with Select Music (home to the Preatures and Amy Shark), been rostered on the summer music festival circuit, was handpicked by Dizzee Rascal to be his Australian support act, and recorded a remix of Treaty with Yothu Yindi.
A very Merry Christmas to you all and a huge “thank you” for taking the time to sign, share and comment in your thousands.
It is clear that there are strong feelings of resentment, disappointment, annoyance and downright anger with the delivery and cost of Airnorth’s monopoly in our struggling region.
One thing is painfully clear to me and notwithstanding the fact that I can ill-afford to fly out of Gove to savour the sugary, salty and additive-laden delights of a Macca’s or KFC, for the region to move on from the post-Rio slump to develop and prosper, an affordable and reliable air service is crucial.
This petition illustrates this depth of feeling but it would be great if as many of you as possible would submit your stories to the forthcoming senate enquiry into ‘the operation, regulation and funding of air route service delivery to rural, regional and remote communities’. It really doesn’t have to be anything formal or academic. A simple letter explaining your experiences is more than enough.
The opening of Warwick Thornton’s Sweet Country (2017) is as prosaic as it is poetic. A battle-scarred billy on a roaring campfire has come to the boil. Into its churning depths an unidentified hand drops a palmful of tea, followed by two more of sugar. Just enough to sweeten its otherwise pungent bitterness.
Off-screen, from what feels to be another time and space, we hear a wildly enraged whitefella insulting an all-but-silent blackfella. The taunt “black bastard” is barked with undiluted contempt. Over the course of the film, this pointed juxtaposition of sound and image will be used, in concert with a series of fleeting flashbacks and flashforwards, to both layer and unfold an acutely tragic narrative.
Thornton’s sensitively scripted story, which draws on the conventions of the western, is simple. Its social and ethical implications, though, are not. In self-defence, an Indigenous man, Sam Kelly (Hamilton Morris) shoots and kills a local landowner, Harry March (Ewan Leslie).
Only later, while they are on the run, does Kelly learn that March raped and impregnated his wife, Lizzie (Natassia Gorey-Furber). After they return and surrender themselves, this information has a decisive impact on the outcome of his trial and its traumatic aftermath.
In their film, set in the 1920s in the Northern Territory, Thornton and his scriptwriters generate a great deal of complexity from a relatively straightforward plot. For example, although the landowner for whom Kelly and Lizzie work, Fred Smith (Sam Neill), says he regards them as equals, this does not prevent him from “loaning” them to March and, in doing so, considering himself a good Christian. Likewise, March’s “borrowing” of them to help him work his land is clearly motivated more by a compulsion to abuse and terrorise them than a genuine need for their labour.
To complicate matters further, the roots of his pathological thirst for cruelty appear to lie in the deep psychological damage caused by years spent fighting in the nightmarish trenches of the first world war. It could even be argued that Kelly, long before March threatened him at gunpoint, was already at war with him and his ilk. This is a fact vividly magnified by the fatal encounter between Sergeant Fletcher’s (Bryan Brown) posse and a party of “undomesticated” Aboriginal warriors.
Impressive as they are, these are by no means the film’s greatest or most memorable cinematic subtleties. Sweet Country’s finer moments undoubtedly belong to its intelligent mise en scène; its unflappable trust in action as a means of telling, not just showing; and, last but not least, its delicate deformations of narrative flow and direction.
For instance, I cannot recall a single scene in which the landscape was merely a convenient backdrop or decorative setting for the actor’s bodies, gestures and dialogue. Even the light and weather that sculpt and animate its sublime, occasionally menacing immensity play an indispensable role in shaping the dramatic highs and lows of Thornton’s taut, but mercurial narrative.
Fletcher’s gruelling attempt to traverse the blistering surface of a blinding salt lake without assistance is unforgettable in this regard. Indeed, nothing sums up his not being in accord with the land he and his fellow invaders want to possess and dominate than his near death in this virtually wordless sequence. Kelly, who is in accord with it, rescues him.
Most impressive of all, however, is the film’s sparing (but potent) use of flashbacks and flashforwards. Thornton and his editor, Nick Myers, employ these to embody the partially abstract notion of historical consequences. By evoking the past or the future of a particular thought or act, they make visible a process that is sometimes hard to grasp, even when it is beyond doubt. To present the seed or fruit of a particular situation while it is still unravelling is to highlight its ethical dimension, to undermine its inevitability. We rarely see this kind of synchronicity between form and philosophy in Australian cinema.
That said, to my mind, Thornton’s widely lauded Samson and Delilah (2009) evinces a somewhat more uncompromising attitude towards the corrosive impact of British colonialism and European Christianity. This is because Sweet Country’s cultural and political authenticity, as it were, is affected by the fact that it features two internationally recognisable actors and draws on a Hollywood genre for its iconography. Fortunately, only in a handful of instances do these constitute a distraction of any real significance.
In truth, for me, there were many payoffs with respect to its powerful reworking of the outback western. Chief among these was a possible – tantalising – connection between settler Mick Kennedy’s (Thomas M. Wright) watermelons in Sweet Country and Tom Doniphon’s (John Wayne) cactus roses in John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). Both represent a point of collision between one world and another. Our task, as viewers, is to turn collision into crossover.
Sweet Country premiered in Australia at the Adelaide Film Festival. It will be released generally in 2018.
“The immediate family of Gurrumul have been clear throughout the grieving process that the contribution he made and continues to make to Australian and Yolngu cultural life should not be forgotten,” his record label Skinnyfish Music said in a statement.
THE Territory’s tourism economy will be forced into an overhaul once major projects like Inpex reduce, the Tourism NT chairman Michael Bridge said.
Mr Bridge, who is also a director of Airnorth — Australia’s second oldest airline — said high airfares were just one part of the challenge ahead.
The cost of flying to and from the Territory has again surfaced with independent MLA Terry Mills pressing for the lifting of restrictions allowing international carriers to move passengers to domestic destinations.
A port launching rockets into space from North-East Arnhem Land won’t benefit Aboriginal people and the Northern Territory Government is only promoting the project in its own interest, says a local independent politician.
A ROCKET base in Arnhem Land may have to get used to having an immediate neighbour, unless a long-term resident is kicked out of his home on the edge of the planned launch site.
There, in a house dubbed a “hideout of Galarrwuy Yunupingu”, lives a whitefella adopted by the Gumatj clan named Fonte, who has no plans to abandon his home, despite an impending plan for suborbital “sounding rockets” to be launched from the site, according to a Northern Land Council briefing, for “government, business and research purposes”.
The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 is very special legislation, not just for the Northern Territory but by world standards.
It has enabled Aboriginal people to gain inalienable freehold title to 50 per cent of the Northern Territory and, through the High Court’s 2008 Blue Mud Bay decision, almost 90 per cent of the NT coastline.
MORE Territorians are seeking help for addiction to amphetamines, including ice, and rehabilitation services are beginning to crack under the pressure.
Newly released figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare show the number of people seeking help for addiction to amphetamines in the Northern Territory increased from 279 in 2013/14 to 426 last financial year.
Darwin’s proximity to Asia and Northern Australia’s porous borders played a role in the prevalence of ice, Mr Franck said.
“And we’re so sparsely populated in the NT, particularly out in the rural areas that it’s harder for the long arm of the law to be out there and there’s more scope for baddies to do what they want to do,” he said.