Classic Films on Power and Representation

Suzanne  -  Sep 21, 2015  -  , , , , ,  - 
Still image from the classic Australian mockumentary Babakiueria

Still image from the classic Australian mockumentary Babakiueria

Welcome to the start of the new school year! To start September off in a good way, Dragonfly calls your attention to two short films, both of which highlight the ridiculousness of much of the “research” conducted on Aboriginal peoples.

The first film, Babakiueria, is an Australian classic from the 1980s. Take a trip down memory lane, through mullet haircuts and first-generation Mac computers (Chicago font, anyone?), and prepare to shudder as you consider just how much of what is presented as “fact” about Aboriginal peoples, cultures, and traditions is actually the product of misunderstandings, assumptions, and overgeneralizations. By inverting the researcher and the researched – in Babakiueria, the Aboriginal peoples of Australia are the dominant society – the film allows viewers to experience colonization from the point of view of an oppressed white family. The brilliant satirical mockumentary, directed by non-Indigenous filmmaker Don Featherstone, highlights some common issues that are still not truly understood by people in settler societies such as Canada and Australia: why Aboriginal youth are angry (watch the son toward the end of the film), why Aboriginal communities have faced challenges when relocated or placed on reserve lands (watch as the white family is relocated from the city to the outback), and why internalized oppression props up colonial endeavour (watch the mum, throughout). An absolute must-see for educators and community workers.

The second film is Qallunaat! Why White People Are Funny, released in 2006 by non-Indigenous filmmaker Mark Sandiford and available on the National Film Board website. Qallunaat! – the Inuktitut word for “white people” – pokes serious fun at how Aboriginal people are exoticized by non-Aboriginal researchers. It also shows how Qallunaat culture is viewed by the Inuit (with exasperation, as shown by the exclamation point in the title). This satirical take on what it means to be researched and documented delves into the politics of cross-cultural representation, leaving viewers with a new understanding of what it means to have power over other people. After you watch the film, read an interview with director Sandiford here.

Pass the popcorn – and prepare to laugh, cringe, and be ever-so-slightly horrified.

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