Bran Nue Dae

I usually restrict my blogging about movies to little notices in the feed on my right-hand column, but I’m making an exception for Bran Nue Dae because every review I’ve read has been tepid to ice-cold.

I want to shout from the rooftops: BRAN NUE DAE is FABULOUS.

It’s not a ‘well-made film’ – though it’s very well made. It’s funny, occasionally soppy, often sly and certainly capable of making a middle class white viewer like me interestingly uncomfortable. I mean, what is this movie doing when it has me wanting to sing along with:

There’s nothing I would rather be
than to be an Aborigine
and watch you take my precious land awa-ay.
For nothing gives me greater joy
than to watch you fill each girl and boy
with superficial existential shit.

It’s like David Gumpilil in his one man stage show tricking us into laughing at his humiliating arrest for public urination. The politics are clear, the dire consequences of dispossession are never denied, but we’re not being lectured at. We’re invited in, discomfort and all.

Mind you, I don’t know how it got its PG rating: in the first few minutes there’s a song about condom use that has very explicit lyrics, and Deborah Mailman’s, um, sexually active character is a pretty adult concept, I would have thought.

All the performances are terrific. I loved the choreography (and choreographer David Page’s brief appearance on a group shot at the end). I loved the look of it. I laughed out loud many times. Rachel Perkins has pulled it off.

13 responses to “Bran Nue Dae

  1. Very camp, lots of fun, and definitely a little bit uncomfortable! Like you, I rushed out to see it at the first screening – the less-than-average newspaper reviews were rapidly eating away at the high hopes I had for this film, and if I read another stab at Rachel Perkins’ direction, I think I would have cried. I loved it. I wanted to dance in the aisles! Yes, the acting was a bit below-par at times, but the fabulous performances by Geoffrey Rush and Magda Szubanski made up for that.
    Indeed, the PG rating puzzled me too. During the condom-tree scene, I found myself mentally covering the eyes and ears of all the children in the audience!

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  2. Thank you, Amelia. It’s a relief to know I’m not alone. The sub-par acting, as far as I’m concerned, was pretty much part of the charm.

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  3. Absolutely. Wasn’t Rocky McKenzie charming as Willie?

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  4. Completely. I gather he was ‘discovered’ when they auditioned a group of students from his school.

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  5. Yay! I’m looking forward to seeing it. The trailer has made me very keen!

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  6. Just saw BND, Jonathan, having loved the stage show, despite gaping holes in story which are still there in the screen version. I thought the film missed about 30% of the goodwill of the stage show (still leaving plenty over), but was let down by loose direction which didn’t really nail jokes and song and dance routines.

    Love the Aboriginal humour and music, great to see a positive Aboriginal story, and Ernie Dingo is better than ever, now he’s got some grey hair and gravitas. Shame there hasn’t been enough screen work for him in Australia or he could have had Morgan Freeman-like career. Jessica Mauboy was terrific too. Very glad I saw it, wish it great success and thanks for your comments.

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  7. Yes, Richard. I just watched a couple of clips from Tom Zubrycki’s 1991 documentary about the play and Jimmy Chi – also called Bran Nue Dae – and it was interesting to be reminded of the stage show’s particular vitality, quite different from the movie’s.

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  8. why is it called bran nue dae?

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    • michael manolis

      originally the song bran nue dae was called “milliya rumarra” from the yawuru language,an aboriginal dialect from the kimberley region in western australia,the literal translation is “now sun”meaning now today or Bran Nue Dae,(brand new day) it is spelt like it is to look like german.

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    • Thanks Michael

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  9. I’m not sure what you’re asking, Jacqui. ‘Bran nue dae’ is ‘brand new day’ as it might be spelled by someone without a great command of written English, representing the way the phrase is spoken in Aboriginal English. The title picks up on the optimistic mood of the play/movie.

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    • Ryan Blackburn

      You don’t know shit Jonathan Shaw. Michael Manolis already answered Jacqui’s question

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    • Hi Ryan. Thanks for commenting. I agree that Michael Manolis’s answer to Jacqui’s question is much fuller and probably more accurate than mine. I hope you won’t mind if I point out that he wrote it about six weeks after mine, so your ‘already’ is a bit mistaken.

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