It’s ‘healing week’ according to NAIDOC if you know what that is! And to sample the white settlers in Hollywood’s Oklahoma (1955) where the natives are simply out of sight: “We know we belong to the land! … and the land we belong to is grand!” but as we know it is a bone of contention in Australia… if you are Indigenous…
So, to celebrate NAIDOC and the complaint which cannot heal, or their hopes for a better future for Indigenous youth nationally, let’s look at three movies about aboriginality and they are director Bruce Beresford’s (1940-) The Fringe Dwellers (1986), German director Werner Herzog’s (1942-) Where the Green Ants Dream (1984) and Dutch-Australian director Rolf De Heer’s (1951-) Charlie’s Country (2013) which seems to be the last word for the director and its star David Gulpilil (1993-) who is currently in the late stages of lung cancer…
Gulpilil won the Best Actor at Cannes for Charlie’s Country. They are all movies made by white men but they are encouraging or disparaging in their look at Indigenous society… and the jaundiced eye of addiction isn’t spared… But there is hope for Indigenous youth to be found In the escape… either on their phones or leaving behind their troubled community and its inherent vices one way or another.
To link that Oklahoma sample and then bring it into the balance of nature and Indigenous Dreaming with a line from Herzog’s movie: “The green ants will come out and destroy the world,” says a tribal elder, who may mean the Greens party in Australia as he protests against the mining and destruction of sacred sites on country. Give it time…
The wisdom of looking after and watching the land in terms of The Dreaming is threatened by the colonial invasion and then white civilisation’s endless need and greed for resources as it encroaches forever into Australia’s interior for export and gain for a few.
It is interesting that the film Where the Green Ants Dream has a character who drives a car with a Queensland number plate while the film itself is set in South Australia where today there are plans to have an atomic waste site somewhere in the country. Also, The Fringe Dwellers sees itself reset in Queensland instead of in Western Australia like the original novel. The next election will be hard fought in the country electorates…
Director Herzog is known for his masterpieces such as Fitzcarraldo (1982) among others which include the colonial invasion of Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) and man’s greed and quest for gold or the dream of wealth through the lost city of gold known as El Dorado, otherwise known to the poor as winning the lottery…. There is no fountain of youth or lost city of gold as the selfish invaders instead find starvation and disease as they murder each other…. To get to the top. It’s just life at the top is overrated so why bother?
“Together we shall rule this entire continent,” says Aguirre upon the deaf ears of the monkeys. But South America may have moved on… whereas Australia despite having half a million less deaths due to Covid compared to Brazil, still has some enduring enigma – so far.
“The age of entitlement is over, and the age of personal responsibility has begun” is to possible misquote the cigar smoking former Liberal treasurer who was incredibly overcompensated by an ambassadorship in New York after possibly having a hand in Robo-debt and quitting Parliament: And “Just for you!” I should add with an affected sample line from the white toothed smile of Graham Chapman of Monty Python in The Meaning of Life (1983) as he speaks to those who’ve just arrived in heaven… It’s Xmas every day in heaven but thank God there’s a ‘real’ Christian in charge of the heaven on Earth of our ‘c*nt-tree’ as under-represented ageing women in monkey masks describe the place and not a so-called conservative Catholic who made fellow women party members uncomfortable due to his apparent sexual preoccupation and comments… I mean heaven forbid a woman as respectable as Julia Gillard being in charge again. End complaint and a hint at the entitlement of the welfare world in Charlie’s Country…
Where the Green Ants Dream has additional dialogue by Bob Ellis (1942-2016 liver cancer) whose alcohol consumption saw him pass away recently in that luxurious neighbourhood of Palm Beach. Too much of that socialist chardonnay… I prefer the red wine up to a point.
There is a missing dog in Herzog’s movie named Benjamin Franklin (1705-90 pleuritic attack) who was the founding father of the United States and belongs to an aged woman. Franklin invented the lightning rod and never patented his other inventions which included a catheter for urinary blockages which replaced the duck’s feather which was used on pirate ships to relieve men with bad prostates. It happens to all men of all colours and I bet Franklin wouldn’t patent a Covid vaccination if he invented it too! Not that you’d take the thing…
“Are you a Christian?” an Aboriginal elder asks a mining engineer encroaching on his land which is nicknamed by the whites as ‘purgatory south’ as opposed to its original name which was probably erased from memory by white supremacy and the White Australia policy with such names as Bald Knob and all that … Maybe if there is healing on the agenda then perhaps ‘they’ should dig up all the old and original Indigenous names and put them on all the outback road signs… Too much to do it in the cities where all the original massacres took place .. but there are nods on roads in certain suburbs and electorates. I mean those places are cursed unless you choose to assimilate with the mob. Yes, They’re a Weird Mob (1966) as the late Robert Menzies era Aussie movie stated… It’s just that the Aboriginals whose children were stolen (some possibly saved as a result), and their culture and language suppressed for years kind of looks like how the Communist Russians suppressed Orthodox Christian religion …. Watch Andrei Tarkovsky’s (1982-36 cancer or poisoned?) Andrei Rublev (1966) for a look at the eradication of culture under the Tartars and others during The Dark ages for another perspective of cancel culture long before Captain Cook set eyes on Australia. No wonder there is a stigma when communism is mentioned!!
Let me freebase about education and Aboriginals and poverty-stricken or lower middle-class whites in Australia and as a middling student who wouldn’t have got a scholarship to university otherwise, I was lucky like the actress Cate Blanchett (1969-) and got a free university degree during the window where the socialist PM Gough Whitlam allowed it, while it was later abolished by the socialism under Labor Party PM Bob Hawke. I protested that election by handing out Australian Democrat leaflets in the hope the two-party system would fracture so the Labor Party would come to its senses and face a minority revolt in the Senate to block the erasure of free tertiary education. Working class Labor-ites laughed and pretended to wipe their arses with my how to vote cards. Such is the short-sightedness of some… The future intelligence of young children with a spark of genius is denied… and smothered instead.
The joke within Where the Green Ants Dream is that anywhere can be a sacred site and that also includes aisle two at the local supermarket where Aboriginals gather to sit… and the manager of that store played by Bob Ellis encourages continued world of population growth as “more children, more customers”. Sadly, the future of these future children remains neglected in the too late state of climate emergency.
Herzog’s movie was made before the Mabo decision by the High Court where the Queensland Government was overruled and native title was first given to Aboriginals… Whether that was a calculated loss by Premier Wayne Goss (1951-2014 brain tumour) or Goose as some called him, remains a mystery to me as I didn’t take too much notice at the time as I tried to earn a living in which I couldn’t even get a credit card due to the amount of rent I had to pay! Two jobs and little hope of a home deposit even back then.
“You white men are lost. You don’t understand the land… too many silly questions (regarding space and the universe) … Your presence on this earth will come to an end. You have no sense of purpose, no direction” an Indigenous elder tells the engineer played by Bruce Spence as he ponders creation but forgets and neglects the land around him and the planet upon which we are all prisoners. The irony we were a once a penal colony seems forgotten as well.
It is not only the Indigenous who have a connection to the land as farmers and those who can escape the city and buy up rural real estate also know some connection to the land. I have even seen some put their farms in trust… but that’s another story.
Possible LNP and uncharitable Labor supporters and workers meanwhile dismiss the Indigenous as “nutty boongs” and “bludgers” which is a long-held perception which somehow affects how the Indigenous see themselves as well as their expectations… but that’s not necessarily their fault as some possibly exploit the social welfare system which they have grown to be a part of and I will get to that in de Heer’s Charlie’s Country…
“This is preposterous,” says a self-indulgent and impatient business leader in Green Ants and head of the mining conglomerate when he’s suddenly beset by gremlins and is trapped in a lift: “My time is valuable!” … He’s forgets that he’s not the only one as each individual’s time remains precious to themselves and their families as they are robbed of this time and the time of their lives by such magnates such as himself who drive his workers for little pay on some occasions.
Perhaps the aborigines understand that time is important or totally unimportant as a personal part of their sentimental lament and grudge over the broken ‘Dreaming’ while they are awake while they do not necessarily care if the children sleep peacefully in the next room or the next house on properties where drinking and violence and sexual interference is as rife as teaching a child to curse… The statistics according to an article by historian Geoffrey Blainey (1930-) in The Australian shows this is worst in Western Australia where child suicide is being tackled due to being endemic.
Generally, on the Eastern coast there is an adherence and discipline inspired by Christianity and sport which avoids the genetic predisposition of addiction that Aborigines suffer from and that goes for society’s white sugar addiction of alcohol and soft drink which is causing mass diabetes and kidney failure… everywhere and to all races! The Indigenous east coast is ‘saved’ from the horrors of addiction … while education is another issue which is related to both avoiding crippling addiction and moving forward from the community where the addiction is rife…
“Yes, we’ll help,” says the Aboriginals when asked in Green Ants. It’s just their culture like the latinos of Mexico deserve and naturally expect a siesta to hide from the ever-increasing noonday sun and changing weather under a large hat… Others can only fiesta with their addictions till they drop due to those addictions. They aren’t asked to help…
I know this is controversial but the inferiority that the uneducated male Indigenous youth is another genetic one in terms of addiction which I can relate to as an alcoholic prone Irishman in that they are not built downstairs to gigantic proportions like some of their African counterparts and Irishmen … and Indigenous teenagers who access porn will see a lack of representation in terms of their own race to relate to and thus ultimately sate the inner satyr… It’s all white Russians and African Americans of the proportions which are ugly and, well… not that I’m really a great proponent of promoting porn: “Those poor women” as Emile Hirsch said guiltily when he was caught using it in All Nighter (2017) … I don’t know if there’s an Indigenous porn industry or hub… It’s still a part of growing up and young men can feel inferiority and stigma due to sexual neglect whether they are black or white and the lack of a role model.
“Yes, we’re all stuck in a lift,” says Spence in a lightbulb moment in Where the Green Ants Dream about the world’s inability to escape itself, or the nation they belong to… luckily the lift we are stuck in is called Australia… other countries have their own screen ‘dreaming’ or lack thereof.
Herzog claimed his inspiration for the movie came from the Nabalco case of 1971, which preceded the Mabo land rights decision of 1992 … This decision rejected Land Rights.
“Educated people started to realise that this was a question regarding their own identity, of how they were dealing with Aborigines and of how they were dealing with history…,” said Herzog.
How about National Sorry Day as a public holiday and a permanent initiation scar for the whites to wear as a reminder for forever disturbing the nature before the inevitability of Herzog’s fictional green ant strikes back… at least metaphorically. Anyway at least they’re taking the time to not destroy neighbouring sacred sites with dynamite in Western Australia with the appointment of an Indigenous head of a mining company as a token.
Where the Green Ants dream peters out with the court decision at the end while the spirit of Benjamin Franklin is forever lost in the business of a mine – remember the Franklin Dam decision had brought down the Liberal Fraser government the year before this film was made in 1983?
Sadly, also remember rocker turned Labor Federal politician for a spell Peter Garrett who tried to etch his name in political history by trying to do same iconic thing by blocking the Mary River Dam under his aegis of his environment portfolio which was short-sighted in terms of climate change and cost to the public purse as there’s a perpetual failure of Australian governments to drought-proof the nation at the expense of fracking which may poison what underground water resources we have. Watch the Matt Damon movie Promised Land (2012) for another point of view. He continues to be an activist about safe drinking water throughout the world which most celebrity gossips and watchers do not realise. If Australia is the new so-called ‘non-circumcidere’ promised land then we should take Israel’s and the lead of other desert nations by drought-proofing our land… Allah be praised otherwise! And Melbourne’s not so liveable I see… something about gang crime and a urinal!
Also brushed under the carpet is domestic violence and addiction in Green Ants and to a large degree The Fringe Dwellers… which is good in terms of young Indigenous with aspirations to leave it all behind and forget that aspect of their community. It’s perhaps also for the rest of Australia at the time to airbrush and not feel guilty about the hell they have created for some Indigenous communities throughout the years of their cultural dislocation.
A return to spirituality and healing has at least been acknowledged in terms of original names with the renaming of Ayer’s Rock as Uluru. Call it whatever you like in your Menzies saved brain where Prime Minister John Howard refused to apologise and split the vote in terms of a new flag and a republic being possibly erected instead of Work Choices which was a bridge too far… It’s not a complaint. The restoration of balance in terms of Dreaming and Menzies politics I dealt with seriously and comically in my unpublishable novels Saul’s Dreaming and They Saved Menzies Brain. Oh, well, I didn’t know the right people… and my artistic dreams were squashed along with my sanity as addiction took over due to my stigmatised reputation… Nobody’s perfect!
We look at The Fringe Dwellers and perhaps Gulpilil’s finest performance in Charlie’s Country in PART TWO