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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

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