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Bran Nue Dae
It is commendable when an indigenous filmmaker can embrace Aboriginal stereotypes and joke with it. A dark-skinned friend of mine once said that when his Caucasian friends started throwing around ‘black’ jokes in his presence, that was the point at which he knew they were at ease with him and that he was truly accepted into the inner circle of the group. Some similar comfort can be taken from Bran Nue Dae, a self-mocking film from indigenous filmmaker, Rachel Perkins, which allows whitefellas and blackfellas alike to breath a sigh of guiltless relief and feel less pretentious about egg-shelling indigenous issues. Of course, were it made by a filmmaker of non-aboriginal heritage, it would be completely unacceptable; I guess society hasn't quite evolved that far yet.

This cinematic rendition of the early 90's stage play may have been cute at inception but 20 years on it's looking a fraction tired. The, only moderately successful, comedy is a long way from the bleeding edge and would fall strictly into the 'old timer' vaudeville category. The story is also largely uncompelling as is the music. It's Grease with indigenous issues incumbent with all the corn but without the catchy tunes. It must be said, however, that it's nowhere near as lame as that other revived 90's misfire, Rent.

The film brightens with the inclusion of Ernie Dingo as Aboriginal elder, Uncle Tadpole. Dingo has fashioned a career from lampooning the urban aboriginal so it's no surprise he has it down to a fine art here. Of the two primary female performers, Missy Higgins is the stand out. Her happy hippy, Annie, brings a vibrancy to the film which complements the presence of Dingo. Furthermore, the simplicity of Higgins' vocal style is refreshing against Jessica Mauboy's fashionably Melismatic why-use-one-note-when-five-
will-do diva technique. (In inspiring a generation of Idol aspirants, Mariah Carey has much to answer for!) Geoffrey Rush's Father Benedictus and Tom Budge's German hippy, Slippery, are cartoonish to the point of distraction, however. And the big mystery of the film is why the happy-go-lucky Annie would be caught dead with Slippery who's such a whiny wet blanket!

Importantly Bran Nue Dae canvasses a range of indigenous issues both past and present but its comedy is so toothless and possesses such a 'Dad joke' feel that ultimately a valuable opportunity is lost.
Stuart Jamieson
www.brannuedaemovie.com

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