Based on the stage musical of the same name by Jimmy Chi and the band Kuckles, Bran Nue Dae is set in 1969 and follows Willie, a young man who struggles to find a balance between the three things that drive his life: his love for his girl Rosie, his respect for his mother, and his religious faith. Willie's uncomplicated life of fishing and hanging out with his mates and his girl in the idyllic world of Broome is turned upside down when his mother returns him to the religious mission for further schooling and entry into the priesthood. After being punished for an act of youthful rebellion, he runs away from the mission on a journey that leads him to meet his 'Uncle Tadpole' and eventually return to Broome. Along the way, Willie and Uncle Tadpole meet a couple of hippies, spend the night in gaol, and meet a gun-toting roadhouse operator, while managing to stay one step ahead of Father Benedictus, who wants to bring Willie back to the mission.
Not all of the original songs from the 1990 stage musical appear in the film adaptation. For a complete listing of the original songs, see Bran Nue Dae: A Musical Journey published by Currency Press and Magabala Books (1991).
'While recently teaching in Japan, I used the Australian film Bran Nue Dae (2009), directed by Rachel Perkins, in one of my courses. The mixed, but non-Australian students, were interested to discuss why a film that was partly about family and historical trauma was a comedy. Extending from the interest, this article considers whether there has been a similar response in Australia to Indigenous-themed films. Are Indigenous issues in Australia, today, also understood to be best represented as serious; that is, to be presented in terms of trauma and with a focus on the difficult moments? Why might many people—the Tokyo students, but also non-Indigenous people in Australia—find it hard to laugh with (or even at) Aboriginal peoples doing funny things? Using Bran Nue Dae, and my students' reactions, this article examines the usefulness and limits of the sometimes careful attendance to issues of race and pain, which are often the way non-Indigenous people engage with Indigenous peoples and issues. Drawing on the success of Perkins' film, the article also explores the usefulness of comedy.'
Source: Publisher's blurb.