Skip to main content

TALKING BROKEN

Germany / Australia, 1990 (MIFF 1991, Documentaries)

Director: Frances Calvert

The Torres Strait Islanders are Australia's "other" indigenous minority. Unlike the Aborigines, little was heard of them until 1988 when they made a brief claim for independence. Since first contact with whites in 1871, they have been controlled by benign but effective colonisers, which has left these islands between Papua New-Guinea and the northern tip of Australia curiously poised between the first and third world.

Talking Broken is a portrait of these islanders which goes beyond a description of colonialism. The "Broken" of the title is Broken English, a pidgin spoken only by the Torres Strait Islanders but it also pinpoints the problems of all indigenous minorities. Although they appear to keep up with "the system", the hidden language of the authorities will always remain a mystery.

With humour and intelligence, several Islanders talk openly about subjects as wide-ranging as independence, culture, tourism, adoption, sex and sorcery. Yet it becomes clear that not all Islanders are aware of their vulnerability in the face of outside forces. Talking about the past is a way of constructing the future so as to preserve their cultural identity in a first-world country.

Talking Broken, the result of three years of research, is the record of an encounter. Talking Broken is about talking back, without external commentary. The filmmakers were allowed to enter the Torres Strait reserves and film for two months with the support and friendship of the people that count the most, the islanders themselves. (P.H.)

"...an outstanding film which rises above being only anthropological and becomes a comment not only on the lives of the Islanders but on what civilization means." Ken Wlaschin, AFI Los Angeles Film Festival

See also...

CRACKS IN THE MASK

Ephraim Bani journeys from the Torres Strait Islands to the great museums of Europe, where his plundered heritage is on display. He carries the hope of all Islanders to see the turtleshell masks made ... More »

ON THE WAVES OF THE ADRIATIC

Melbourne filmmaker Brian McKenzie spent 5 years working on this engrossing study of a not-so-typical Brunswick household. It's a laconic, observational documentary similar to the director's I'll Be ... More »

MAN WITHOUT PIGS

The film captures the exotic spectacle, and at the same time the intense and subtle dynamics of village life through the eyes of John Waiko, a member of the Binandere clan in Papua New Guinea, and ... More »

BERKELEY IN THE SIXTIES

This film is one of the first comprehensive looks at the student movement of the 1960s as seen from the Berkeley campus. A small student movement becomes a cause celebré when the House Un-American ... More »

HOLLYWOOD MAVERICKS

Maverick: 1. An unbranded animal: esp: a motherless calf. 2. An independent individual who refuses to conform with his group. - Webster's Dictionary ... Upon receiving the American Film Institute's ... More »

BRAN NUE DAE

Tom Zubrycki's new film (following Friends and Enemies, Kemira etc.) follows performances of Broome's Aboriginal musical Bran Nue Dae, from rehearsal and development to the rapturous reviews and its ... More »

Select a festival
Search The Film Archive
Browse By Director