Cheeky, vibrant and fresh – Bran Nue Dae is a nutty and delightful musical set during the late-sixties in the dusty and remote town of Broome, an old pearling port located way up the west coast of Australia.
Ostensibly the coming-of-age story of the Aboriginal musician/playwright, Jimmy Chi, the tale was first seen as a stage musical (incredibly, Australia”™s first Aboriginal musical) almost twenty years ago.
It”™s the Summer of 1969 and young Willie (local boy Rocky McKenzie) is preoccupied with slacking off in his idyllic home town of Broome – fishing, hanging out with his mates and pursuing Rosie (Jessica Mauboy), a girl he”™s sweet on. But his evangelical mother (Ningali Lawford-Wolf) dreams of her boy becoming a priest, and so she sends him back to the religious mission down in the big city (Perth) for further schooling. After being punished for an act of youthful rebellion by the severe Father Benedictus (Geoffrey Rush), Willie runs away from the mission. On his long journey back home, our hero encounters an assortment of colorful characters.
Bran Nue Dae is an energetic and culturally-rich story, and all this is reflected in the way it is told. From the light and fun songs and off-the-wall dance numbers, to the wacky characters, situations and sound effects – even the film”™s highly saturated color palette of the gorgeous cinematography and stunning red earth landscapes – it all adds up to a fun and sweet movie musical experience.
Director Rachel Perkins, an activist indigenous filmmaker, shaped the screenplay with playwright Reg Cribb, based on the original musical by its central creator, Jimmy Chi.
Over twenty years ago Jimmy Chi, along with his band, Knuckles, captured the unique sound of Broome – described as a fusion of country, folk, rock and reggae – when they assembled a collection of songs first for their traveling show and later for the 1990 musical. (Incidentally twelve of the stage production”™s twenty-six songs were used the film.)
It”™s brimming with charismatic performances, especially Jessica Mauboy and cutie-pie pop starlet Missy Higgins – both have exquisite voices and look beautiful on screen.Â (Side note: Having been a runner-up on Australian idol a few years back, this is the film debut for Jessica Mauboy.)
The film also stars character actors well-known to Australian audiences, such as Ernie Dingo as the lovable larrikin Uncle Tadpole, also Magda Szubanski and Deborah Mailman.
Theatrically released in Australia at the beginning of this year, Bran Nue Dae debuted with a staggering $2.5mill in its opening week, going on to gross over $7mill, making it one of the most successful Australian films of all time.
Bran Nue Dae has a vivacious energy all of its own and is a fun way to gain a little insight into a sadly under-represented slice of the indigenous Australian community.
Don”™t miss it!
Now playing, in limited release, in Los Angeles, at The Grove cinemas in Farmers Market.
Review by Pauline Adamek