“We are all just visitors here to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to grow, to love – and then we go home.” ~ Aboriginal Proverb
Challenged by industrialization, environmental toxicity, drugs, alcohol and social acceptance issues, the Aborigines in the Northern Territory of Australia, Arnhem Land, still have clan identities that call them home to values of self-sufficiency, resilience and harmony with nature. But how many have the will to heed this voice from home? Even the elders, travelling to an island with fresh water and a potential for crops and a life reminiscent of bygone years, find they can’t stay too long in isolation from medical care and grocery staples.
Joshua Bell, director, producer and writer, exposes a loving picture of a culture dominated by Djalu Gurruwiwi, a master of the didjeridu. For 12 years, Bell was associated with Djalu’s clan and the challenges they faced.
The most interesting scenes are when adolescent boys are transferred to the men to be raised. The women paint them up with intricate patterns. Then the men come to take them away. The women weep at losing their children who have had little mix with the adult men.
The boys are laid down with chants and they are circumcised. Medicinal leaves are wrapped around their wounds and a sarong is tied at their waist as they limp away, to be brought up now by their fathers and the men of the clan.
Threatening the environment and the Aborigines who live there is a bauxite mine that sheds daily caustic residue into the environment. It produces the aluminum that is used in cell phones and big screen TVs.
But perhaps more lethal are the available drugs and alcohol. Aborigines are susceptible to addiction and this disease tears up their lives, families and clans.
The gift of Bell’s doc is the glimpse into the life of Djalu and his music, the worried comments of his sister and the anthropological study of an Aboriginal clan. Having gotten to know this family over a period of time, Bell is able to provide a respectful, tender, rare, loving portrait of people in trouble. How a traditional didjeridu is made and what it sounds like juxtapose the worries that this Aboriginal clan must overcome to survive.
“In Between Songs” was released on DVD on Aug. 5, and will be available on Demand (VOD) platforms like Amazon Instant, Hulu and Cinema Libre On Demand starting Sept. 5, 2014.
Director/writer/producer: Joshua Bell
Production Team: Richard Hama, Joshua Bell, Kirk Sullivan and Tom Brennan
Narration: James Cromwell
Cinematography: August Thurmer
Editor: David Hopper and Joshua Bell
Music: Damon Aaron
Featuring: Djalu Gurruwiwi, Dhanggal Gurruwiwi, Larry Winiwini Gurruwiwi, Vernon Marritjngu Gurruwiwim, Bakamumu Merika, Djali Ganamberr and Djali Ganambarr
Release Date: Aug. 5, 2014 (USA)
Runtime: 86 min.
Country: US and Australia
Film Location: Australia
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