I usually stick to photographic discussions here, but I’m going to wander in a different direction with this post.
I attended the Virginia Film Festival this year. A great feature of the Festival is the discussion that follows the films. This year, one such discussion brought to light a very important human rights drama unfolding on the other side of the globe.
The speaker for the discussion after the films was Darlene Johnson. Ms. Johnson wrote and directed the first film, called “Crocodile Dreaming,” and is from the Dunghutti tribe.
Perhaps the most important theme of the film (which was a thriller to be sure, with special effects and some fairly frightening scenes) was Aboriginal identity, and how it is defined not only by tribe, but also by “skin,” which is your patrilineal heritage. The main character in Crocodile Dreaming is illegitimate, and had no skin heritage from his father’s side. Consequently, he was a bit lost in his own culture. In the film that is put right, through a ritual experience.
Here’s the connection to human rights; Ms. Johnson mentioned in passing that there was a bill recently passed by the Australian Senate that might have disturbing consequences for Aboriginal Settlements. If anyone reading this remembers the movie “Rabbit Proof Fence,” it was about that an attempt to get Aboriginal people to modernize and move to populated areas. This resulted in what was called “the Stolen Generations,” as children were separated from their parents and moved long distances to resettlement camps. Many were never able to find out who their parents were. Considering the “skin” and “tribe” elements of identity mentioned above, this was an utter loss of identity.
Upon arriving home I searched the Internet and that the new legislation is called the “Northern Territory Emergency Response Act 2007,” and was rushed through Parliament, which has been perceived as an attempt to limit discussion. While I see nothing currently about moving people from the land, there are to be more parts to the initiative released in the coming months. Land has been a point of contention between the government and Aboriginal tribes.
Margo Smith, director and curator of the Kluge-Ruhe Center, was presiding over the event and the discussion. She mentioned that there would be an informational lecture/discussion on the Legislation and its possible effects at some point in the future. I haven’t noticed this on the Center’s Calendar yet.
The lesson I learned in regards to the Virginia Film Festival: Always stay for the discussion after the film is over. If I hadn’t done it in this case I would never have appreciated the meaning of the film I had just seen.