Ramininging is an Indigenous community in the Northern Territory, the setting for Another Country. For David Gulpilil it’s also the land he calls home.The film sits at the end of a long partnership between Molly Reynolds and Rolf de Heer, starting in 2002 with The Tracker, followed by the string of Ten Canoes, Charlie’s Country, and Still Our Country. All in all, the films have surveyed the stark impact of white culture – its policies and its ideologies – on the Indigenous people of Australia. Another Country feels like it wants to wrap up and reassert a lot of the ideas touched on by these earlier films, whilst also hammering home its own points throughout. That said, Reynolds film is neither didactic nor polemic, and seeks instead to garner empathy through the intimate and slow-moving narration from Gulpilil. Above everything, Another Country reveals its intention in its title: to show another country, that has been constructed through bureaucracy, violence and structural oppression over generations. It’s never unsure of itself, or of its audience. It is a film directed at white Australia, whom Gulpilil calmly asks at the start of the film to do nothing more than listen – everything else can wait until at least this is achieved.
It’s clear that Ramininging isn’t a rare case, or a community chosen due to the degree of the impact of policies such as intervention. It finds itself at the centre of the film due to its familiarity to our aforementioned narrator, however, the tone and content of Gulpilil’s narration quickly frames this as far more a common situation than anything particularly worse than the norm for these communities in Australia. This isn’t a documentary that seeks to find the worst effects of intervention and the policies of white Australia, however, what is presented as regular and accepted makes for starker commentary than another sort of film could ever hope to. At the same time, Reynolds and de Heer’s involvement in Ramininging does raise some eyebrows, however, especially when looking at the sheer length they’e been active within the community. With Ten Canoes and other films from the two shot in the same area, using actors from the 800-person community over the last ten years, Ramininging is a particularly unique case – where white culture has been present both in government programs, but also in the film crews of Reynolds and de Heer over the years. Despite this, the images shown, as well as Gulpilil’s poignant narration, creates a powerful illustration of the impact this has had.
There are some genuinely astounding scenes in Another Country that few would expect to encounter in such a film. There’s scenes that shock in the degree of damage caused: the functioning of the Intervention-ordered supermarket system, the sheer ability and intellect of figures rendered unemployed by the nature of bureaucratic policy failings, and the degree to which the introduction of consumerism and “rubbish” has impacted a community like Ramininging. Then there are scenes that break the expectations of the audience, giving a sense of nuance to an overwhelmingly sobering film. Most notably is a lengthy section that follows the yearly re-enactment of the Crucifixion of Christ by members of the community. It shows a more subtle way in which outside cultures have infiltrated the community in a less over way and contributes towards a more intricate and revealing portrait.
David Gulpilil’s constant calmness throughout the film is its defining feature. He’s never in a hurry to go anywhere, and lulls the audience into a place where they are in the same place. It’s not a short conversation that has to be had and Another Country only seeks to begin it, rather than conclude it. Gulpilil’s meditations are delivered with a slowly paced, yet markedly controlled manner with the actors phrases left to linger – line by line – in viewers heads. Meanwhile, the rich cinematography oscillates between awe-inspiring and terrifying, as the sublimeness of the natural world is so frequently thrown against the excesses of consumerism. Another Country seeks to make audiences aware of the degree to which White Australia has damaged the Indigenous communities that existed by its arrival. It’s not a comprehensive study of how deep these scars truly are, however, it seeks to push its audience into a place where they accept their complicity in what is portrayed and are actively prompted to consider how they can work towards change.
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