Eye For Film >> Movies >> Kanyini (2006) Film Review
Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson
Bob Randall is an elder of the Yankunytjatjara, one of the Aboriginal tribes of Australia, whose culture stretches back 40,000 years. Here he tells his story which, in turn, offers a history of Australia’s shameful treatment of the native populace over the course of the past 100 years.
The kanyini of the title sums up Randall’s philosophy on life, as taught to him as a child, when he still roamed naked and happy in the lands of his forefathers around Uluru (the name of which was even 'stolen', to be replaced by Ayers Rock). It represents his connectedness to four concepts “a belief system, spirituality, land and family”.
He relates the story of how he – a child of mixed race – was one of the ‘stolen generation’; one of the 50,000 children taken from their families between 1910 and 1970 to be taught the ways of the white in schools far away from their families. He reveals how his kanyini – and by extension, that of his entire race – was gradually chipped away until his sense of true identity was lost.
Now he hopes that after years of being caught between their traditional culture and that of the descendants of the settlers, there is a way to restore this kanyini and pride and bring his people out of the wilderness of poverty they are currently trapped in.
Randall is an eloquent guide. It is clear he is saddened by what has gone before and, understandably, angry, particularly about the period he refers to as “that killing time”, when many were slaughtered in the name of progress. Everything, is connected, and so this is also a hymn to an ecosystem lost as man’s greed made him forget to look after the land. “My family was massacred… for what?”
But this is not a rage-filled polemic, rather it is a testimony to the past and a plea to the future, to find hope for those who are treated as second-class citizens. Perhaps the film could have reached out to talk to more subjects but by keeping the focus on Randall, we begin to feel some of that ‘connection’ so important to his argument.
Director Melanie Hogan’s direction is as restrained as Randall’s testimony. She cleverly interweaves shots of the land today with pictures of tribes people from the past, when they were free to walk their land, not confined to shanty town style reservations. The contrast with the current day plight is stark – and may well prompt many in Australia to consider taking action to change things for the better. In fact, reading the official website at www.kanyini.com it seems that already change - thankfully, of a good sort - is already afoot. Long may it continue.Reviewed on: 21 Mar 2007