Screen cap from promotional trailer
form y Ten Canoes single work   film/TV  
Note: Written in consultation with the people of Ramingining.
Issue Details: First known date: 2006... 2006 Ten Canoes
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

A story within a story and overlaid with narration, Ten Canoes takes place in two periods in the past. The first story, filmed in black-and-white as a reference to the 1930s ethnographic photography of Donald Thompson, concerns a young man called Dayindi who takes part in his first hunt for goose eggs. During the course of several trips to hunt, gather and build a bark canoe, his older brother Minygululu tells him a story about their ancestors and the old laws. The story is also about a young man who had no wife but who coveted one of his brother's wives, and also of the stranger who disrupted the harmony of their lives. It is cautionary tale because Minygululu is aware that Dayinidi desires his young and pretty third wife.

The second story (shot in colour) is set much further back in time. Yeeralparil is a young man who desires the third wife of his older brother Ridjimiraril. When Ridjimiraril's second wife disappears, he suspects a man from another tribe has been seen near the camp. After he spears the stranger he discovers that he was wrong. Knowing that he must face the man's relatives he chooses Yeeralparil to accompany him during the ritual payback. When Ridjimiraril dies from his wounds the tribe's traditions decree that Yeeralparil must inherit his brother's wives. The burden of these responsibilities, however, is more than the young man expects.


  • The promotional trailer for this film is available to view via YouTube: (Sighted: 28/9/2012)

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

Works about this Work

Ten Canoes as a Communist Film Darren Jorgensen , 2016 single work criticism
— Appears in: Studies in Australasian Cinema , vol. 10 no. 1 2016; (p. 168-175)
'This essay thinks through the populist Marxism of Bertolt Brecht, and more specifically his courtroom challenge to the film industry, in order to interpret the Australian film Ten Canoes as a communist film. The idea of communism has recently been proposed by French philosopher Alain Badiou as a way of naming projects that are not only anti-capitalist, but that also suggest alternative modes of organisation. Ten Canoes actualises Brecht's ideas about what a collective filmmaking process might consist of, and more significantly what it might look like. The stilted acting, multiple storylines and structure of the fable that Brecht employed in his theatre productions are also visible in Ten Canoes, forms that resulted from a filmmaking process that involved extensive consultation with a remote Australian Aboriginal community. Its members made decisions about the film's story, script and casting. This coincidence between a German theatre director's ideas and twenty-first-century cinema points to a coincidence of aesthetics and politics, to which this essay gives the name communist.' (Publication abstract)
Ten Canoes Rewatched – Ethnographic Document Meets High-spirited Whimsy Luke Buckmaster , 2016 single work review
— Appears in: The Guardian Australia , 3 January 2016;

— Review of Ten Canoes Rolf De Heer 2006 single work film/TV
Isle-Cross'd Lovers : Vanuatu's Tanna and the South Pacific on Film Glenn Dunks , 2016 single work essay
— Appears in: Metro Magazine , Autumn vol. 188 no. 2016; (p. 24-29)
As the first film to hail from Vanuatu, the South Pacific-set forbidden romance of Tanna, which was produced in collaboration with Australia, is a landmark piece of cinema. Glenn Dunks delves into this historic film's origins and examines its achievements in light of other screen works about and set in this highly underrepresented region.
Respecting Protocols for Representing Aboriginal Cultures Jared Thomas , 2014 single work criticism
— Appears in: JASAL , vol. 14 no. 3 2014;
'This essay undertakes a detailed discussion of how respecting protocols for representing Indigenous cultures supports the interests of Indigenous communities and producers of stories with Indigenous content. To highlight the importance of Indigenous protocols I review the prominence and reception of Aboriginal stories in Australian film and literature and discuss how protocol guidelines can prevent problematic representations. I demonstrate how protocols influenced writing Calypso Summer (2014), a novel exploring issues relating to my cultural group, the Nukunu, to illustrate the challenges encountered and benefits gained from employing Indigenous representation protocols. ' (Author's introduction)
De Heer's Story of Country Helps Heal Penelope Debelle , 2014 single work column
— Appears in: The Advertiser , 19 April 2014; (p. 4)
Canoes Float Over Culture Gap Stephanie Bunbury , 2006 single work review
— Appears in: The Sunday Age , 21 May 2006; (p. 6)

— Review of Ten Canoes Rolf De Heer 2006 single work film/TV
Ten Canoes Takes Us for a Great Ride David Stratton , 2006 single work review
— Appears in: The Weekend Australian , 10-11 June 2006; (p. 9)

— Review of Ten Canoes Rolf De Heer 2006 single work film/TV
Journey to a Lost World Phil Brown , 2006 single work review
— Appears in: Brisbane News , 21 - 27 June no. 592 2006; (p. 27)

— Review of Ten Canoes Rolf De Heer 2006 single work film/TV
Film : Ten Canoes Shane Brady , 2006 single work review
— Appears in: Brisbane News , 28 June - 4 July no. 593 2006; (p. 36)

— Review of Ten Canoes Rolf De Heer 2006 single work film/TV
Taking Audiences on a Wonderful Journey Dougal Macdonald , 2006 single work review
— Appears in: The Canberra Times , 1 July 2006; (p. 26)

— Review of Ten Canoes Rolf De Heer 2006 single work film/TV
Ten Canoes a First 2006 single work column
— Appears in: Koori Mail , 12 April no. 373 2006; (p. 34)
In Search of Lost Time Garry Maddox , 2006 single work criticism
— Appears in: The Sydney Morning Herald , 20-21 May 2006; (p. 18-19)
Top End Tales Nicolas Rothwell , 2006 single work criticism
— Appears in: The Weekend Australian , 27-28 May 2006; (p. 4-6)
Rothwell discusses a range of Australian films in which Aborigines have been depicted. He focuses particularly on Rolf de Heer's Ten Canoes and Kim McKenzie's documentary, Fragments of the Owl's Egg.
Canoe Culture Bridges Gap Philippa Hawker , 2006 single work criticism
— Appears in: The Age , 3 June 2006; (p. 17-18)
Tribal Voice Claire Scobie , 2006 single work column
— Appears in: Sunday Life , 11 June 2006; (p. 25)
Last amended 11 Mar 2015 14:30:06
  • Arnhem Land, Top End, Northern Territory,
  • 1000-1099
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