Albert Wiggan, Kevin Oscar, June Davis, Anne Poelina, Merle Carter
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…a powerful and enlightening film.
An insightful examination of the threats from irrigated agriculture, pastoralism and intense mining to Kimberley’s remote Aboriginal communities, Undermined – Tales From the Kimberley focuses attention on the often unheard voices and commentaries of people living amidst this ongoing struggle.
Written and developed with producer Stephanie King, Nicholas Wrathall’s (Gore Vidal – The United States of Amnesia) film is an eye-opening look at the impact of sustained pressure from big business on the culture and society of residents in the Kimberley. The film follows veteran cattleman Kevin Oscar, Senior Elder June Davis and community leader Albert Wiggan as they strive to preserve their country and their culture. Also including commentary from Dr. Anne Poelina, the film is an urgent call for greater communication and understanding.
The vast unspoilt wilderness of the spectacular Kimberley region in the north west and its superb coastlines are captured beautifully. The magnificent ancient land is set to the music and words of the people, with folk music from the communities involved painting an extra layer of meaning and resonance.
The Kimberley is currently at the centre of not only an unprecedented land grab, but is also the location of a spate of recent youth suicides. These are tragedies that have, after intense scrutiny, been judged by coroner Ros Fogliani to have been shaped by “the crushing effects of inter-generational trauma”.
Made before this judgement, but very much in full knowledge of the devastation experienced in the land, the film looks at the damage done to not only the land, but also to the culture and identity of First Nations people of the region. As deals and proposals for projects continue to roll in, it asks ‘for whose benefit is this development?’
The film skilfully deploys a non-traditional, hybrid style of documentary, driven not only by thorough investigative journalism, but most importantly by the personal stories of the characters at the front line.
It is the connection between country and culture that is at the heart of the tales detailed in the film. Panning out of the close ups on local communities whenever relevant in order to provide context and background, the painful facts surrounding the narratives of the central figures are given in full detail. We discover that attempts to develop and impose an outside way of using the land are often proposed quickly, with unfavourable terms offered. The status of land rights, and how they can be used to give authority to a proposed business venture, is also closely studied.
Inextricably linked to the process of unwanted development is the forced closure of communities and the relocation of First Nations residents; effectively leaving young people lost and homeless in towns and cities far away from the country that they so strongly identify with. The film visits lost Kimberley communities, where all the young have been forced to move, either through necessity or otherwise, and finds places lost in pain and hurt.
Acting as a stark reminder of the importance to look at issues that are at once both complex and straightforward, Undermined – Tales From the Kimberley is a powerful and enlightening film. It highlights the fundamental necessity to hear, listen and understand from those that know the realities of the situation far better than anyone else.