You know if Steven Oliver is narrating, this is going to be a warm and fabulous ride through a serious subject. Taking the 250th anniversary of the landing of Captain Cook in Australia as a jumping off point, Indigenous artists create modern-day songlines that voice an Indigenous view of colonisation.
Jammed full of heartfelt stories, profound comments and irreverent humour, director Steven McGregor and Steven Oliver create the context for an eclectic group of musicians creating music about the arrival of Captain James Cook.
In 2019, Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for communities to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Cook’s first voyage to Australia in 2020. The plans were eventually shelved as Indigenous people and allies spoke out about its inappropriateness in an Australia that is slowly becoming aware of the appalling reality of colonisation. As musician Fred Leone says, if Japan had succeeded in its bid to invade Australian in WWII, how happy would we be to celebrate the anniversary of that day?
Musicians such as Trials, Birdz, Fred Leone, Mau Power, Mo’Ju, Alice Skye and Kev Carmody speak about what the oft-told history and fable of Cook means to them and their music. They perform songs that are defiant, deeply personal and steeped in 250 years of inequity, pain and community. When Fred Leone sings in language in Birdz’s song Bagi-la-m Bargan, the sound is a spine-chilling connection with something ancient.
Oliver hits just the right notes of humour, fabulousness and sincerity in broaching some very difficult topics – the high suicide and incarceration rates for Aboriginal people, the attempted genocide of his people and white Australia’s reluctance to listen. He highlights the many things named after Cook, the resonance that must have for Indigenous people and how odd it is to create a statue of a single person, the antithesis of the Aboriginal notion of community. And he dances.
Overall this is an engaging and accessible insight into an Australian history that is still not taught all that well at schools. It invites empathy and communicates through something that connects us all – music.
Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.