Sunday, 9 August 2009

MIFF : Bran Nue Dae movie review

With its blend of toe tapping tunes, acting and voice talents, and beautiful scenery, Bran Nue Dae is great musical fun.
The story itself is a fairly flimsy excuse for stringing the musical numbers together. Set in 1969, aboriginal student and head boy Willie Johnson (newcomer Rocky McKenzie) runs away from boarding school in Perth, back home to his devoutly Christian mother Theresa (“not the Mother Teresa”) and would be girlfriend Rosie (Jessica Mauboy), in Broome, the far north west of Australia. Along the way they collect hippy tourists, Wolfgang (Tom Budge) and Annie (Missy Higgins); the homeless Tadpole (Ernie Dingo); Kimberley girl Roxanne (Deborah Mailman); and steal from Roadhouse Betty (Magda Szubanski). They are pursued by head teacher Father Benedictus (Geoffrey Rush) up the highway as he seeks to return Willie to school.
They all meet on the beach in Broome where family relationships are reconnected and restored.
The highlights of the film, without question, are the show tunes. Drawing on the popular stageshow of the same name, the songs are a mixture of 50s rock, show tunes, Negro spirituals, country & western and one Zorba inspired accordion backing to a traditional Aboriginal dance. Casting Mauboy and Higgins ensures that the numbers they are a part of are performed consummately. The other professional actors sing capably and in between times enjoy their comic byplay with each other.
The desert scapes are beautifully shot by Andrew Lesnie making the most of the unique colours of the Australian bush: the deep turquoise of the waterhole, sunburnt orange of the desert sand, the clean white robes of the gospel choir and so on.
The musical high point for me was the breakout, tapdancing
“There is nothing I would rather be
than to be an Aborigine”
by Willie and the boarding house boys, just as they were to feel the full weight of Father Benedictus’ ‘Thou Shalt Not Steal’ smacking stick.
Director Rachel Perkins previous credits include the acclaimed TV series First Australians and the Paul Kelly musical, One Night the Moon.
This film was great fun and a great way to finish the Festival.


Anonymous said...

Hey that sound great Rob. I must check it out and slake the thirst you have created.

So has the festival closed now?

(My spys tell me too that the queues into the Town Hall on Saturday to see the opening of the controversial Chinese film went all the way up Collins St.)

Anonymous said...

Also.... do you have a listing of the 1001 Movies to see before you die? it possible we could all do our own check against it in some online way? To the lachmobile Robin....

GGBlog said...

Thanks for your comments Retsilla. I think you will enjoy BND when it is released.
Yes, the Festival has closed for another year. I would love to have seen more on offer but the practical realities of LIFE keep getting in the way. I enjoyed what I saw however and am grateful for that.
As to the Chinese Govt protest - as they say, there is no bad publicity.
There are movie lists online for 1001 Movies (you must see before you die) but maybe it would be easier to email you directly the list? If there is a broader interest then I can set up a separate webpage.