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EXILE AND THE KINGDOM

Australia, 1993 (MIFF 1993, Documentaries)

Director: Frank Rijavec

Roebourne (W.A.) came to national attention in the mid-eighties when 16-year-old John Pat was killed in police custody. It was the outcry that protested the acquittal (by an all-white jury) of five policeman that provided the single greatest spur for the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. Frank Rijavec's documentary Exile and the Kingdom goes beyond any single issue and sets a new standard of cooperation with, and consideration for, isolated Aboriginal communities. The director meticulously observed both custom and ritual in the execution of the production, even striving to structure the film in line with the storytelling rhythms of his subject.

The work's central proposition is that the displacement of the various Roebourne communities from their traditional lands is the underlying cause of many of the social problems that plague the area. Removing the Injibarndi, Ngarluma, Banjima and Gurrama from the physical base, the literal foundation of their ways and law has underminded their society.

Framing the documentary with an opening set in a time of myth and magic, an organic history unfolds, detailing the origins of cultural identity and social practice. Exile and the Kingdom moves carefully through European conquest and settlement of the Fortesque River area, the forced integration of Aboriginals into an alien system and subsequent blights, like the mining boom of the Sixties and the alcohol problems that beset the community.

Providing optimism , rather then succumbing to despair, the film "captures the essence of Aboriginality past present and future" (Kado Muir). What shines through is the resilience of the indigenous people, willing to go head to head with an often violent police force and uncaring bureaucracy in order to secure hope for their future.

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