An Aborigine tale, told with tap, music, and high spirits

Ernie Dingo and "Missy" Higgins in a scene from "Bran Nue Dae," a film set in 1960s Australia that is based on a stage musical.
Ernie Dingo and "Missy" Higgins in a scene from "Bran Nue Dae," a film set in 1960s Australia that is based on a stage musical.
Posted: September 10, 2010

Bran Nue Dae (say Brand New Day), an irreverent celebration of Aboriginal culture, is a slapstick identity musical that (literally) tap dances in the face of bigotry.

"There's Nothing I'd Rather Be," its showstopping number sung in the style of a 1930s music-hall ditty, boasts the lyrics: "There's nothing that I'd rather be/Than be an Aborigine/And watch you take my precious land away."

Rachel Perkins' psychedelic panorama of 1960s Australia is based on a stage musical that dates from the 1990s and borrows from gospel, Broadway, and country idioms.

Though the film seems to be cobbled together from saints-and-sinners tropes that were rusty in Victorian times, its high spirits are infectious. It dares you not to laugh. When you see a flatbed truck of Aboriginal youth dancing to the theme from Zorba the Greek, how can you not?

The film's hero, Willie (Rocky McKenzie), is a handsome indigenous youth who hankers after the lovely Rosie (Jessica Mauboy, golden-throated winner of Australian Idol) even as he studies to be a priest under Father Benedictus (Geoffrey Rush).

With his magic-realist cinematography that captures the red earth and cerulean sea of Australia's west coast, Andrew Lesnie gives the movie a dreamy Dreamtime quality.

Great? No. But Bran Nue Dae is great good fun.


Bran Nue Dae **1/2 (out of four stars)

Directed by Rachel Perkins. With Rocky McKenzie, Jessica Mauboy, and Geoffrey Rush. Distributed by Freestyle Releasing.

Running time: 1 hour, 28 mins.

Parent's guide: No MPAA rating (profanity).

Playing at: Ritz at the Bourse.


Contact Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or crickey@phillynews.com. Read her blog, Flickgrrl, at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/flickgrrl/.

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|