Sinem Saban and Damien Curtis’s “Our Generation” is a documentary film released in 2010 which discusses the ongoing fight of Australian aboriginals to preserve their culture , their freedom and their lands, in the context of governmental pressure to give up land rights in exchange for education, housing and other services. The filmmakers succeeded in presenting a comprehensive picture of the complex issues affecting Aboriginal Australians in the Northern Territory today. The success of this film is based upon its reliance on witness accounts, and in particular, on the testimony of ordinary people from aboriginal communities. The footage from the lived experiences of Aboriginals, such as their overcrowded homes, but also, their traditional dances and rituals, offer a complex image of the lives and cultures of aboriginal peoples in Australia. Moreover, the historical footage from the missionary establishments helps viewers to situate the present situation in its context.
The documentary treated its subject matter fairly, by giving a voice to different members of tribal communities in Australia. The filmmakers also based their film on research which shows how the governmental policies affected indigenous people. For example, in discussing the prevalence of trachoma in aboriginal communities in Australia, the filmmakers state that “in remote Aboriginal communities, like Galiwin’ku, up to 60% of children suffer from the disease” (Saban nd Curtis). Furthermore, the filmmakers also interview authorities such as Jon Mazower from Survival International, who confirm the abuses reported by the indigenous people. On the other hand, the filmmakers give a voice to the other ‘side’ of the story. Thus, they present the arguments of Pat Anderson, the co-author of the “Children Are Sacred Report” who states that, in communities where alcohol and drugs consumption are common, children are typically abused. However, the filmmakers subsequently show that these suppositions were not correct. This shows that the documentary carefully follows the events and presents them as they occurred, allowing the viewers to draw conclusions based on facts and testimonies.
As a result, the information presented in the film was very insightful. It gives a voice to people who are rarely heard outside their communities, and it goes beyond the information usually presented by the media in order to provide a truthful account on the situation of the people living in the Northern Territory. The film was particularly successful because the filmmakers interviewed a wide variety of people, who were involved in the matter in very different ways. Besides, the film followed a narrative line, starting with information on historical events, and evolving towards the present. The different accounts are easy to follow due to the narrative voice which helps viewers to follow the development of the story easily. The historical footage is also effective in triggering an emotional response from viewers. The scenes in which the community members perform traditional rituals or activities are contrasted with scenes in which other Aboriginal people are crowded together in improper homes. These scenes influence the viewers to perceive the aboriginal lifestyle as a healthier and much more preferable to the lifestyle that the White Australians are trying to impose upon these people.
People today are educated to perceive racism as a matter of the past. While racist attitudes can be encountered in everyday life, it is shocking that institutional racism is practiced in developed countries today. This film made me think about the ways in which the media distorts people’s perceptions of the issues which pervade societies and how certain groups can be demonized by policy makers and journalists on purpose. This reminded me that hearing the voices of these people is not only important, but also fair and should represent the norm in a civilized society. Finally, this film showed me that people have the right to live according to their own norms and cultures, even though they may appear to be outdated or unfit for the contemporary world. As most people who live in the city, I was convinced that indigenous populations or minority groups must be helped to progress and integrate in the society. However, now I understood that in fact, the ancient cultures of these people, and their connection to the land should be valued and treasured, and their rights to own the lands of their ancestors should not be violated.
Our Generation. Dir. Sinem Saban and Damien Curtis. Australia, 2010. Film.