Image courtesy of publisher's website.
form y Waiting for Harry single work   film/TV  
Issue Details: First known date: 1980... 1980 Waiting for Harry
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

'Djunawunya, Arnhem Land, east of the town of Maningrida, July 1978. Frank Gurrmanamana is responsible for preparing the final mortuary ceremonies for his brother who had died six years before. The brother had been buried in Maningrida, but now his remains are being brought back to his home country.'

'Central to the ceremonies is Harry Diama, the senior blood-relative of the deceased man, but Harry lives in Maningrida and is pre-occupied with a pending court-case there involving his son. He is needed to approve each step of the preparations, and is also pivotal in bringing other people to the event, including “men of importance” for the dancing.'

'Harry’s continuing absence puts huge pressure on Frank and upon all of the others who must wait at the ceremonial site, including Les Hiatt, Franks’ old anthropologist friend. Harry is also aware that the film crew is waiting to record the event: “These filmmakers work for us. We’ll see it here … our own film. We’ll all be in it.”'

'Painting of emblems on the hollow-log coffin proceeds, sand sculptures are made, with Frank expressing his constant concern that it all “looks good for the film”.'

'Men from Cape Stewart, an area with cultural and traditional trade links to the dead man’s clan, are also needed to make the ceremony work, and further tension surrounds their response to the painting of the coffin.'

'As the day for the ceremony’s climax draws near, Frank grows ever more anxious about the non-arrival of Harry and the people he is supposed to bring.'

'When Harry finally arrives, the final stage of the ceremony is permitted to begin and, though normally performed at night, it is successfully performed in daylight for the benefit of the camera. In the end, Frank’s responsibilities are fulfilled and he speaks with great satisfaction about the film: “This film is mine. Now men everywhere will see my sacred emblems … These emblems I hold so dear are now on a film, so the film is also dear to me. It was my idea to bring these film makers. All is now finished … and I am filled with pride.”' (Source: Ronin Films website)


  • Ronin Films wishes to advise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that this

    film may contain images and voices of deceased persons.

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

Language: English , Aboriginal Burarra
English narration, Anbarra (Burarra) language with English subtitles
      1980 .
      Image courtesy of publisher's website.
      Extent: 56 minsp.
      Series: AIATSIS Collection Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies ,

      'The Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies (later AIATSIS – the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies) was established as a statutory authority in 1964. The Institute quickly established a film unit to act as an archive of filmed material and also to record material of ethnographic and historic significance. Part of this work also involved the preparation of films for public release, and until the early 1990s, the AIAS Film Unit became responsible for some of the most significant works of ethnographic film then produced in Australia. This collection of some thirty significant documentary works will be progressively released by Ronin Films in association with AIATSIS, where possible in re-mastered form and with associated interviews with filmmakers.' (Source: Ronin Films website)

Last amended 18 Nov 2015 13:46:53
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