I loved Maya Newell’s Gayby Baby (2015). She has a knack of removing herself from the frame and immersing us in the intimate world of family. It can seem like a commonplace tale until you slowly realise that she is personalising key social concerns, allowing us a window into the impact of prejudice, racism and institutionalised apathy.
With In My Blood it Runs, it is the voice of Dujuan that she puts front and centre. A 10-year-old Aboriginal boy living in Alice Springs, he’s one of those kids with an independent streak who has trouble sitting still in class or staying home at night. His mum Megan and nanna Carol do their best. On the news are the revelations about the abuse of kids as young as 10 years old at the nearby Don Dale juvenile detention centre, where 100% of the kids detained are Aboriginal.
Dujuan is at a school where he struggles with literacy and numeracy but comes alive for the 30 minutes a day he learns Aboriginal language and culture. The audience collectively gasp as we watch a (white) teacher discount Dreamtime stories as fairytales that “we have to say we believe.” What emerges is a picture of endless struggle for Aboriginal families. The strength and resilience of their culture, that grounds them in Country, spirit, family and healing, tries to fit around the edges of an educational system that enforces English literacy over learning in their first language, a welfare system that identifies vulnerability but then uses the police and justice system to control and incarcerate.
Dujuan is like so many boys I know. If he was non-Indigenous he’d be considered a scallywag and some dedicated and innovative learning support would strive to keep him engaged. He might cause some headaches and drop out of school after year 10 but a Don Dale would never be his most likely future.
What makes Newell’s films remarkable is the way she genuinely collaborates with her subjects. Dujuan and his family all had creative control and could have chosen for the film not to screen. Dujuan appeared on stage afterward with Newell, his grandmothers and a cluster of producers. Dujuan’s prospects at the moment look good, I won’t say how as it’s part of the narrative arc of the film, but it underlines what is needed to raise the prospects of all Indigenous young people.
It was clear from all on stage that the film and the willingness of the family and community to bare their souls, is a way to encourage change. As one said, “It shouldn’t be a radical notion that Aboriginal people love their children.” You can help make a difference by supporting organisations such as Children’s Ground and Akeyulerre (The Healing Centre). To find out more visit inmyblooditruns.com.
This is an important film for all Australians and something we shouldn’t be ignoring because it’s not in our suburb or town.
Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.