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Sunday, May 2, 2010

Kirstin McKenzie's reflection

I enjoyed collaborating with my colleague Ang O’leary during this assignment.

I decided early to create a blog to present our work because I thought it would be an effective tool for collaboration. I also like the creative element of blogsites. Fortunately, Ang embraced the idea and has contributed some fantastic posts to our site.

I chose to review a film because Week 10 Aboriginal Voices talks about Indigenous work in screen. I had already viewed Samson and Delilah and thought I would analyse this film, however, I decided to focus on the more obscure production Stone Bros. which I had not seen.

I loved the movie and it has become one of my favourites. I urge anyone who has not seen it to do so soon! Its artistic integrity, so apparent in much Indigenous work, shines strong and bright.

Stone Bros. Film analysis by Kirstin McKenzie

I had planned to review two films; Samson and Delilah and Stone Bros, however the word limit made me focus on just one film. I chose the work with the lower profile – the 2009 production Stone Bros. Written and directed by Richard Frankland, this work is a great example of contemporary Indigenous Australian comedy feature film.

Frankland is a Gunditjmara storyteller from South-Western Victoria who has produced international award-winning works in music, theatre, literature, film and documentary making (Arts Victoria, 2010). Stone Bros is one of his recent major works and is a funny heartfelt story told through an Indigenous Australian lens. Frankland also wrote and directed the 2000 short film Harry’s War and is from the fourth generation of Indigenous men to serve in the Australian army (Australian Screen, 2010).

The comedy is fresh and quirky without being slapstick or predictable. As Frankland (Korff, 2010) states, “With this film I'm hoping we give licence to all Australians to laugh with us, not at us behind closed doors.” The film certainly is funny but I also found there were many poignant moments which touched me more deeply. The most memorable is when the two main characters, cousins Charlie and Eddie ‘stole’ their rock from the University’s museum collection in Emerald, Queensland. While the scene was cleverly choreographed to be comedic, the underlying message was strong and symbolic – Indigenous people taking back (or reclaiming) what is rightfully theirs.

There are other references in the film which also spoke to me, including the comment by Eddie (who is ‘not as black as Charlie’ and is struggling with identity while trying to connect with his Aboriginal heritage), ‘It’s not just culture cuz, it’s home’. This dialogue reinforces Aboriginal worldview of land and people and its belonging. Other dialogue that references important issues is the comment by cousin Reggie (a singer/performer struggling with his sexual identity). Reggie says, ‘We do all the work and some white fella makes all the money’. The reference to exploitation of Aboriginal people by non-Aboriginal people highlights the continuing struggle for Indigenous autonomy in Australian society.

Langton (in Grossman, 2003) says that in Aboriginal artistic production, she has observed the process of incorporating the non-Aboriginal world into the Aboriginal worldview. There is evidence of this in Frankland’s work, for example, the representation of Aboriginal magic and witchcraft which provides much of the comedic material in the film.

Another interesting and clever motif used by Frankland again relates to land. In the dialogue between Eddie and Charlie’s wife, Eddie complains to her that he is, ‘Sick of walking in circles and is going to walk the land’. She responds, ‘Walking the land is constructive’. What is interesting (and clever) is that the film reveals in the end, that by walking the land, Eddie has in fact walked in a circle. His personal journey to find cultural significance leads him home to his people, family and country. What I found especially poignant was the giving of the rocks by the elder uncle to the young boys towards the end of the film. To me this symbolised the respect and wisdom of the elder people and their caring for family and the younger generations. I knew that as with Eddie and Charlie, the rocks were given to the boys to help them complete their journeys by bringing them back home to family and country.

Probably the most uncomfortable (and funny) scenes in the film for me as a non-Aboriginal audience were those played by non-Aboriginal actor Peter Phelps. His portrayal of a police officer desperately immersing himself in Aboriginal culture made me question my own journey for cultural knowledge. Like Phelps’ character, I feel like an outsider who, without Aboriginal heritage, can never truly belong. What makes Aboriginal culture so appealing to me, however (and this was certainly the over-arching theme in the film) is the strong emphasis on family connection and the responsibility of sharing and caring for people and belonging to country.

One last (but not least) important message I received from Frankland’s film was rendered by Charlie’s character. During the scenes between Charlie and Vincent, Charlie (the stereotypical clown/comedian) is forced to face the root of the pain he keeps covered with his comic antics. Vincent proffers some Italian words on love and in doing so, opens Charlie’s eyes. Vincent accuses Charlie of being a ‘slut’ because he is ‘alone and in pain’. According to Vincent, ‘You don’t lose your pain by throwing it around’. A close-up camera shot of Charlie’s face reflects the depth and breadth of his pain – a strong visual representation of social injustice.

In one of the scene’s featuring Charlie’s sexual antics, he is asked to don a condom and in response to the white item he remarks, ‘No man’s gonna colonise my cock’. He then suggests covering the condom in chocolate sauce. While this may not be the most appropriate platform to express my thoughts during that scene, I will be honest and share my (albeit very personal) view. Semen – the impregnating fluid produced by male reproductive organs – is colourless, in every man. I don’t know if Frankland even considered this, but his film impressed upon me the shared humanity of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. Those who refer to people in terms of colour do so in ignorance because black and white has no colour.

REFERENCES:

Arts Victoria. 2010. Richard J Frankland. http://www.arts.vic.gov.au/content/Public/Arts_In_Victoria/Victorian_Arts_Overseas/Export_Guide/2007/Richard_J_Frankland.aspx (accessed April 30, 2010).

Australian Screen. 2010. Indigenous film and television. http://aso.gov.au/titles/indigenous/written-directed/ (accessed April 30, 2010).

Korff, J. 2010. Stone Bros. http://www.creativespirits.info/resources/movies/stone-bros.html (accessed April 30, 2010).

Langton, M. 2003. Aboriginal art and film: The politics of representation. In Blacklines: Contemporary critical writing by Indigenous Australians, ed. M. Grossman, 109-124. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press.

Positions of op(posit)ion - by Ang O'Leary

'This Land is Mine' - Kev Carmody & Paul Kelly.

One Night the Moon (2001) clip 2 on ASO - Australia's audio and visual heritage online

(please click on the above link to view the song)

The narrative of the song is a powerful force that starkly illustrates two very different relationships to Country. One man claims ownership, 'this Land is Mine' and the other man declares that, 'This Land is me'.
As I have discovered, my thoughts about Australian society has been shaped by the ways in which I learnt; learning about the world within the system of the mainstream 'white' dominant culture. Growing up, I would sometimes hear racist beliefs touted about Aboriginal people and their place within the 'white' society that was thrust upon them. Even as a child, this angered me as I wanted to know more about the First People of the Land and there was never the opportunity to know in the true sense, as the Aboriginal man shares in his song,
' Rock, water, animal, tree. They are my song, my Being is here where I belong',
whereas the white man can only quantify his ownership in terms of a mere linear understanding, 'This land is mine, all the way to the old fence line'.

This song evokes a profound response to the white man's false sense of power over the Land for exploitation and personal gain. The simple verses and repetition of, 'this land is mine, this Land is me', skillfully engages the listener with (the call and response-like) nature of the chorus.

Starkly as it contrasts between the two paradigm ways of thinking, it challenges the listener to understand the systemic powers that were responsible for the ignorance in the first place.
Thankfully, the era of 'inter- subjectivity' (Langton, 1993) is upon us, with the ability for the reader or listener to seek new ways of (post-colonial) understanding. This whole notion of post-colonialism is perhaps another node for discourse, as it could be argued that the mainstream is still hanging on to the 'coat-tails' of the imperial system.

However the song brings a sense of hope, in that sharing is still there for those who are open to alternative value systems and beliefs. Allowing me to understand that historicism is purely subjective and that the dynamic nature of Life also brings with it the opportunity for new ways to embrace the wisdom that was once deemed 'primitive'. Resistance to the imposition of dominant ideologies may be considered 'political literature' but it is necessary to illustrate how far from the truth the colonization has brought us as a nation.

This piece of music was performed at Kev Carmody's, Cannot buy my Soul' Concert by Aboriginal artist, Dan Sultan alongside Scott Wilson. The whole concert was a collaboration with Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal artists. It was very poignant to observe that music has the ability to become a vehicle of transformation, a musical and poetic discourse; transforming the 'status quo' and giving the audience not just entertainment but opportunities for learning and growth.

References:

This Land is Mine, 'Cannot Buy My Soul, the songs of Kev Carmody' 2007, Audio CD, EMI Music Australia.

Langton, M, 1993,' Well I heard it on the radio, and I saw it on the television...' an essay for the Australian Film Commission on the politics and aesthetics of filmaking by and about Aboriginal people and things, Australian Film Commission, North Sydney.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

MINMIA helps me in my quest for critical analysis- Assignment 3



I wanted to share something that will be helping me to formulate my own responses to texts for our next assignment. It gave me a position that creatively stimulated my own critical analysis discourse....

Minmia (p.124) shares that, 'to fully understand and become intimate with something is to know its story.'

Using an analogy of Minmia's (p.124) lemon story...
she asks to enquire about:
'how did the lemon get here?' (the reader's position)
'How much is palatable?' (what type of positive lessons or insights have been gained by the text?)
How much is bitter?' (what leaves a 'bitter taste in my mouth, and why?)
'What about the tree?' (Understanding of Creation/knowledge, author's position)
Who planted the tree? (origin of theme, relationships)
'Who picked the lemon?' (readers' response to writing)
'Who cared for the tree?' (How has this knowledge or theme been maintained textually and sociologically?)
'How did the tree become strong?' (themes of resilience, resistance)

As Minmia declares: 'It's not just a lemon. It has a story. Everything has a story and everything has a teaching.'

The bracketed text is my own response to these questions for fine tuning my skills in textual analysis, these can be tailored to your own interpretations. Break it down.

I hope this even challenges your own notion of what 'a lemon' really means to you.

Ang


Reference:

Smith, M (Minmia) 2007, Under the Quandong Tree, Quandong Dreaming Publishing, Mogo, NSW.


End note:

In preparation for the major assignment, I will be exploring 3 themes that are emerging:

Self determination and resistance: in the context of Aboriginal writings' response to imposition of 'white ideologies' and the associated notion of hegemony.

Dispossession and Identity and the need to bring 'Unfinished business' to the fore.

Connection to Country, notably an over-arching theme which will connect everything together, an inseparable part of Aboriginal Law.

Ang





Sunday, April 18, 2010

Recipe for Metropolis Brisbane as textual review by Ang O'Leary

Recipe for Metropolis Brisbane by Samuel Wagan Watson

Serves: Nearly 3 million people
(give or take a generation)

Ingredients:

1 utopian landscape with a blue river

1 mixture of European cultures seasoned with convicts

200 years of conservative politics

1 trillion tons of bitumen, steel, gas, concrete and treated timber

garnish with exhaust


1. Peel the utopian landscape of most of its flora, fauna and Indigenous flavour.
Place what remains in an obscure melting pot on medium heat.

2. Stir in a mixture of European cultures seasoned with convicts. Other cultural flavours may emerge in the process. They can be included or excluded. Cover and allow to simmer for over two centuries.

3. Every 10 years, add some conservative politics and gradually pour in the 1 trillion tons of bitumen, steel, glass, concrete and treated timber. Stir until the blue river turns brown.

4. Firstly, your dish will gel into Brisbane Town; drain and stir until it becomes Brisbane City; cover, and allow to simmer.
Include the rest of the politics until the desired thickness of Metropolis Brisbane is achieved.

Cook's note: Metropolis Brisbane is best served with the aroma of lead exhaust, sprinkled over the dish!

textual analysis:

Sam Wagan Watson's use of the 'recipe' format may appeal to readers initially for the creative use of time and measure. What is the final product of the recipe? Is it something palatable? The elegaic prose is a legacy to what has been lost. The recipe is said to serve nearly 3 million people, but it is the reference, 'give or take a generation', that is in brackets which was the first painful message within the text. Like Heiss states (2003, p2), it is clearly a portrayal of 'appropriation and exploitation of Aboriginal culture and identity'. The mere use of this statement being within brackets symbolizes the invisibility felt by those of the 'Stolen Generation' and families affected by the forcible removal of their kin.The ignorant use of power is illustrated well by the flippancy of the statement, 'give or take a generation'.

The succinct and impacting style of delivering the prose had a profound effect in illustrating how the plight of the 'white' to covet the land of Brisbane and it's land for the sole use of exploitation. It is very well captured with imagery of 'peeling the utopian landscape of it's flora, fauna and Indigenous flavour'.

The use of power could also be ascribed to in the format of the prose, with the analogy of the recipe signifying that the 'cook' is asserting dominance over the materials used within the 'recipe' just as the European colonists asserted their dominance over the landscape. Adding various ingredients such as, 'bitumen, steel, gas, concrete and treated timber' along with '200 years of conservative politics' forces imagery that is not very easy to stomach.

Watson challenges the reader to reconsider their own relationship with the environment, as this poem is indeed a realistic portrayal on how historical 'white' beliefs and policies have negatively impacted on Aboriginal people and their Country.

Shoemaker (2004, p.126) relates the historical theme as one of the most important in Aboriginal literature, further stating that there are many ways of conveying this. I feel that this particular piece makes use of 're-interpreting Australian ( and Indigenous Australian) interracial history'.



Reference:

Shoemaker, A 1998, Black words, white pages: Aboriginal Literature 1929-1988, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, QLD

Heiss,A 2003, Dhuula-yula- to talk straight: publishing Indigenous Literature, Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra, ACT

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Welcome



Hi !
My name is Angela and together with Kristi we hope to inspire some ideas and discussion with our specially chosen reference to films and poetry, and also other texts or media that will inspire preparation for our major essay.
It is my wish that this blog will inspire readers to ponder some of the key themes and messages and reflect, to generate discussions with each other and get angry, get sad, get proud of the Aboriginal Voices that move us to change the way we see things.

*The photo I am sharing is from a spot on the Coomera Circuit, Binna Burra. I felt that it captures the beauty of the Place. The many facets and colours that lie underneath are there to be seen, if we take the time to look. Just as with our own history, there is so much under the surface!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010