Director: Trevor Graham
On December 1,1942, a US airforce bomber crashed in the south-east corner of the Gulf of Carpenteria after a bombing raid over New Guinea. Four of the crew survived and, thinking they were near Cairns, naively set off on foot. Their story later made world headlines, but as it was playing out, as they wandered the Gulf coast, another version was being written not very far away, but in a very different language.
The Yanyuwa aboriginal community had seen the bomber (Little Eva) coming down and had set off to find it. They searched for days, but the only planes they saw were the Tiger Moths sent out by the Yanks to find the missing aircraft. However, they did return with something else - The Aeroplane Dance, a spectacular corroboree that retold the story of the search. The Aeroplane Dance passed the event down into local folklore and, eventually, back into white culture.
Today the Yanyuwa men and women who searched for the American airmen are old. The Aeroplane Dance is rarely performed now, and each performance may well be the last. Yanyuwa, the only extant language with both male and female dialects, is spoken by fewer and fewer people.
Trevor Graham's fascinating film weaves together four key elements of the story in an effortless manner; the historical retelling of the incident through white eyes, the ethnographic account of the surviving Yanyuwa, the filming of The Aeroplane Dance itself and a daring but very effective dramatisation of the lost airmen's wanderings (shot in a deliberately cheesy 40s B-movie style). With a telling coda as to the threatened survival of the Yanyuwa language and culture, Graham has created a complex but highly accessible documentary that directly, or otherwise, addresses a whole range of issues of white contact with the land and its indigenous cultures.
Stories of three women who grew to adulthood in the 1930s, a decade of depression, the rise of fascism and the threat of war. In these years the three, like many Australians, developed beliefs which … More »
In 1937 YosI Bergner, a 17 year old Polish Jew, arrived in Melbourne seeking refuge from anti-semitism and fascism in Europe. He became an inspirational figure among a community of painters seeking t… More »
A narrated advocacy documentary about the struggle of the indigenous people of Murray Island (Torres Straits) for land rights. It has been very recently completed by the Melbourne based team which pr… More »
Trevor Graham's biography of Eddie Koiki Mabo belongs to a fine tradition in Australian documentary filmmaking. Astutely balancing the 'personal' and the 'social', Graham presents a concise… More »
From the director of Mabo—Life of an Island Man, the producer of Picnic at langing Rock and based on the famous opera by Puccini, Tosca: A Tale of Love and Torture is a documentary like no othe… More »