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Kristine Sohn 9E

Ten Canoes Text Response Essay (b)

Rolf De Heer states: For the people of the Arafura Swamp, this film (Ten Canoes) is an
opportunity, maybe a last chance, to hold on to the old ways. Why would he state that?
Maybe it is because there arent many indigenous Australians anymore, and for the reason
that they passed down their stories by mouth, which is not easy to hold on to the old ways
just by hearing with ears. So the film attempts to keep the culture that is now becoming
forgotten, laws that are being practiced no more and stories that are vanishing in the new
generations to manage the indigenous Australians alive.
The biggest main concept of the film is reincarnation. The film attempts to keep the
culture of indigenous Australians alive by setting the characters to live with the pure nature
which represents the concept of reincarnation. First of all, reincarnation is a religious
concept that the soul or spirit begins a new life in a new body that may be human, animal,
or spiritual after biological death depending on the moral quality of the previous lifes
action. Therefore, reincarnation takes up a big part of the Aboriginals culture. The film
actually does not directly tell the main concept is about reincarnation. However, the
audience can hint the concept of reincarnation by three typical reasons. Firstly, the death
ceremony; it is a ceremony to help the soul of the dead to go back to their waterhole for the
soul of one to end and move on to the next. The film uses various shot types and camera
positions for the scene of Ridjimirarils death ceremony. For example, long shot and eye-
level shot are used to show Ridjimiraril death-dancing to the death song. As said in the
example, the death ceremony includes a death dance and a death song. The death dance
seems like a simple movement, but the point is to help the dying person (in the film:
Ridjimiraril) begin to make connections with its ancestors in the spirit world. And the death
song is an Aboriginal music that is not in English which is also not subtitled and which
intends to show the culture of the old ways. Secondly, the quote of the narrator in the
beginning of the film; the narrator says When I die I will go back to the waterhole. The
waterhole is the key to the concept of reincarnation. Thirdly, the characters think it is
important to respect the elders and live the proper way. This can also imply reincarnation
because the behaviour in the previous life can affect the next new life.
Keeping the laws seemed to be very significant between the characters in the film. This is
remarkable in the payback scene. The payback was actually the cause of Ridjimirarils death.
When Ridjimirarils brother, Yeeralparil, killed a strange man from a different tribe, the
victims tribe wanted to payback to Ridjimiraril. The tribe wanted to kill Ridjimiraril instead
of Yeeralparil because the spear used to kill the strange man was made by Ridjimiraril.
Ridjimiraril accepted the payback. Therefore, the victims tribe throws numbers of spears to
hit Ridjimiraril. The effect of the scene, especially the motion and sound, gives tension to
show riskiness. Even if the payback could result in death, it shows being fair is important in
the Aboriginals laws. Also, the marriage law seemed significant as well. The oldest brother
in the family would have multiple numbers of wives when the other brother or brothers
Kristine Sohn 9E

dont have any wives. The other brothers would have to inherit his older brothers wives
when his older brother dies. This law was shown in the ending of the film when Yeeraparil
earned his brothers wives.
This whole entire film indeed tries to keep the stories of the old ways of indigenous
Australians. The culture and the law are included in this Aboriginal story which helps even
more to have an opportunity to hold on to the old ways. Nowadays, stories are written in
words in the media but Aboriginal stories were told in oral tradition. At any rate, the stories
of Aboriginals seem to convey a message that living the proper way is a moral concept to be
known for their descendants. In the film, Minygululu tells Dayindi the story to help him live
the proper way. Also, the narrator tells the audience: Maybe this story will help you live
the proper way. These quotes give a lesson to the descendants of the indigenous
Australians and even the audience nowadays to keep the stories of the Aboriginals alive for
In brief: first of all, the culture, reincarnation, is still believed by many kinds of religions.
However, the film attempts to show that reincarnation was an important concept in the
indigenous Australians culture; secondly, the law of fairness and marriage of the indigenous
Australians isnt practiced anymore. Nevertheless, it shows it was once like that in the old
days; lastly, the stories which are slowly vanishing because it was only told by tradition are
made into a film to keep the old ways of the old days.