“Off track, off beat, and now online.” BLACK AS


Production Credits: A Rebel Films Production financed by Screen Australia in association with Screen Territory. Director,Writer and Producer David Batty. Executive Producer,David Noakes. ABC Executive Producer sally Riley.

My title is an excerpt from the Trailer of this fabulous series, which is about a group of Yolngu Boys who grew up watching a previous series about Bush Mechanics, and had already produced their own version with a short self-made film. They sent it to the producer of the previous show, who travelled to Arnham Land  and produced this series, which was released this year and is now on iView. It consists of 24 short (5minutes each) videos, showing the boys, all Yolngu boys, but one , Joe, is Caucasian, having been adopted by a Yolngu family, initiated into the tribe and living with them; a blood brother.The series depicts the boys hunting, fishing, eating bush food, making do with any equipment they can find to take them on adventures. The most often used tools for mending cars, boats, trailers, etc, are axes, hammers and their own bare hands and energy.

I was interested to see a group of indigenous “brothers”, and how their everyday behaviour  played out the life-style I had been reading about in this course, mainly, how they organised themselves to get work done, for example, as they have this aversion to taking or giving orders to any other person. I found it very interesting. Certainly, the group seemed to be self-starting. ” I’ll get wood”. ” Let’s make a fire.” “Leave this and Let’s go fishing.”  But the presence of the non-indigenous person plays around with this autonomy  idea, because Joe is very bossy, and is also the experienced Bush Mechanic. Tensions rise sometimes and on one occasion, having found a billabong and cooling off ,after a stressful walk in the bush with no water, and everyone blaming everyone else, Joe and Jerome give every appearance of a real fight in the water. On the sidelines Dino calls “You’re only playing, aren’t you!”  But they emerged from the water, a quick embrace, “Blood Brothers!. “We’ve made peace, now let’s make a fire!”

I read that nothing is scripted, except for a couple of sit-com examples for comedic effect, but all the language spoken is Yolngu, with English translations. Another point I noticed is that they all quite naturally fell into sign language. They were roaring across the Arafura Sea and the boat was making lots of noise. The English translations kept coming along the screen, all the hands were fluttering , but no voice sounds. I simply assumed that they were using sign language, but I’d be interested to know if I’m right.

Also from the ‘series trailer’  I heard that there is no didactic purpose in the series. They are not trying to prove anything except ,perhaps, to their fellow indigenous brethren, that life can be a lot of fun, out in the bush, using the traditional methods of getting food and using whatever they can find to make that hunting and fishing easier. eg clapped -out  cars and trailers.One up for Indigenous Comedy!

Deirdre Benson


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