Ten Canoes

Rated NR

This film seems like a National Geographic special that was made by the people it’s about. Set in an Australian swamp, 10 Canoes is narrated by an Aboriginal storyteller (David Gulpilil) who relates a nested set of tales focusing on the desire of a man for his brother’s wife. Within its own logic, it’s a story about patience as Dayindi (Jamie Gulpilil), who wishes he had a wife, is told an ancient tale about another man with the same desire (also played by Gulpilil). In the long and twisting story, sorcerous feuds, household squabbles and intertribal wars must pass before the young man can attain his desire, and in the end, it may be less than he bargained for. For the modern Westerner, though, it’s a sumptuously photographed study in an alien culture, replete with heroism, brutal sexism, xenophobia and a complex attitude toward death and others.

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