Friday, November 9, 2007

The Virginia Film Festival and the Klughe-Ruhe Sponsored Films

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.

2 comments:

Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection, UVA said...

On June 21, 2007 Australian Prime Minister John Howard declared a national emergency regarding Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory. Citing a report on violence and child abuse in some Aboriginal communities, Howard announced the federal government was seizing control and instituting sweeping changes from bans on alcohol and pornography to the elimination of the Community Development Employment program (CDEP).

The announcement came about in response to a report commissioned by the Northern Territory government entitled Little Children are Sacred. However, the intervention strategy followed none of the recommendations outlined in the report. Instead, draconian measures have been taken such as cutting welfare payments and work programs to exert control over the ways Aboriginal people spend their money, eliminating the permit system which regulates access to Aboriginal land, and deploying police and army personnel into Aboriginal communities.

The Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of UVA, Charlottesville, Virginia will hold a panel discussion called Sacred or Profane? The Australian Government’s Intervention in Aboriginal Communities on Sunday, December 2 at 3:00 pm on the third floor of Newcomb Hall in the South Meeting Room on the UVA campus.

Panelists will discuss different aspects of the intervention and talk about the changes already felt in Aboriginal communities. The audience is invited to engage in discussion following the presentation.

Panelists include Dr. Howard Morphy, Director of the Centre for Cross-Cultural Research at Australian National University, Frances Morphy, Fellow at the Center for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, Josh Wheeler, Associate Director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, Will Owen, author of the blog Aboriginal Art - An American Eye, and Margo Smith from the Kluge-Ruhe Collection. The event is free and open to the public.

Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection: http://www.virginia.edu/~kluge-ruhe

Will Owen blog: http://homepage.mac.com/will_owen/iblog/

Centre for Cross-Cultural Research: http://www.anu.edu.au/culture/

Thomas Jefferson Center for Protection of Free Expression: http://www.tjcenter.org/

Ed Deasy said...

Thanks for replying and providing the information about the meeting, and the details about the government's measures. I'll be there to hear the discussion . . .

Ed