Film – Toomelah

By Lidija Bujanovic
toomelah

Toomelah depicts mission life in contemporary Australia through an intimate account of the life of Daniel, a 10-year-old boy. Not able to engage at school, Daniel develops close friendships with the local drug dealers and, despite his youth in comparison to his new mates, he becomes a courier for the crew. The burden of a decision between gangster life and the classroom is not something most kids Daniel’s age face, yet his life leads him to this doorstep.

The film draws you into a harrowing sense of limbo, where you see the effects of government policy that has removed so much from this community, which in many ways remains disconnected from modern Australia.

The film draws you into a harrowing sense of limbo …

A lack of prospects is fundamental to the film’s central theme – the future for young people living in towns like Toomelah is placed in the foreground. Whether or not the film actually instills hope in its viewers is questionable, but it certainly offers an important insight for anyone who is unfamiliar with the reality it portrays. Such an insight coming from a child’s perspective is particularly poignant. Especially given that, in comparison to the wider population, Australia’s Aboriginal population is relatively young.

Writer and director Ivan Sen draws on his own life experiences in crafting his film, set at Toomelah Station. Located in northwest NSW and formerly an Aboriginal mission, Toomelah is home to a small Gamilaroi Aboriginal community. This is where Sen’s mother grew up.

[Toomelah] offers an important insight for anyone who is unfamiliar with the reality it portrays.

Producer David Jowsey, of BUNYA Productions, highlighted at the screening that this documentary-style film is a testament to Ivan as a filmmaker, who basically worked as a one-man crew throughout the production. The scenery is undoubtedly beautiful. If after watching the film you wonder about the numerous sunsets, most of Toomelah was shot straight after school, with non-professional actors, over just five weeks.

Officially selected for the Cannes Film Festival 2011 Un Certain Regard, Toomelah screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) at ACMI on Saturday 31 July, 4:00 pm. The film is due for general release later this year.

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