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With: Crusoe Kurddal, Jamie Dayindi Gulpilil Dalaithngu, Richard Birrinbirrin, Peter Djigirr, Peter Minygululu, Frances Djulibing, David Gulpilil Ridjimiraril Dalaithngu, Johnny Buniyira, Michael Dawu, Julie Djelrr, Madeline Gaykamangu, Valerie Malibirr, Rico Pascoe
Written by: Rolf de Heer
Directed by: Rolf de Heer, Peter Djigirr
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: Aboriginal, English with English subtitles
Running Time: 90
Date: 03/19/2006

Ten Canoes (2007)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Paddle Stations

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Coming out of Australia and shot almost entirely in the Aboriginal language, Ten Canoes is a wonderful celebration of storytelling that should translate to any audience in any world. A modern-day narrator, speaking English, tells a story about his ancestors who build canoes out of tree bark and set out on a goose egg hunt. (These sequences are shot in black-and-white.) A young man learning all this for the first time, hears a story from his elder, and we flash back to another story -- shot in color -- about their ancestors. The two stories mirror one another in that the young man is in love with the third (and youngest) wife of the tribal elder. In the color story all sorts of misfortunes befall a peaceful tribe when a stranger appears. It's far less complex than it sounds; the movie flows smoothly and patiently, using natural pauses to build anticipation and suspense. Co-directors Rolf de Heer (Dance Me to My Song) and Peter Djigirr add some lovely, fluid camerawork, tracking backwards and forwards and sideways through the outback, always at the precise, correct moment. And the characters are refreshingly human. They bicker, joke and indulge in secret vices (one tribal elder loves honey). Ten Canoes might even make a nice family movie, although parents should be warned that the characters often appear mostly naked.

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