Yolngu Boy

Yolngu Boy (Stephen Johnson, 2001) Sean Mununggur, John Sebastian Pilakui, Nathan Daniels; Aust. dist. Palace; 88 min.; see Leonie Rutherford, "Negotiating masculinity: Yolngu Boy", Metro, 140, 2004: 62-69; see Collins & Davies 2004: 88-91

A detailed depiction of the problems that various kinds of drug or substance abuse can sometimes cause in remote communities is to be found in Yolngu Boy (Stephen Johnson, 2001). The effects of petrol sniffing on the part of one of the three main characters, Botj (Sean Munungurr) are shown stylistically with camera movement, distortion etc., and also result, in terms of the narrative, in a critical event: the death of Botj. This is another film which deals with the difficulties of dealing with distinct cultural systems—but the situation is perhaps more hopeful in the actual Yolngu country (in Arnhem Land) than it is in the more fictional “dead heart”. Petrol sniffing is not the only reason for making the film, but as the director says: “That’s partly why I made the movie, because of that sad situation”. After Botj died in the film and Sean Munungurr not only reappeared alive in his community at Gapuwiyak but also started sniffing again—something he had eschewed during the film-making—he became a sort of cult figure among the younger people, who seem to have concluded that it was possible to die from sniffing but then come back to life. The representation of the deadly effects of petrol sniffing, combined with the presence of the young film star and therefore role model, actually resulted in the practice becoming even more prevalent than it was before. 6 (Excerpt from Ten Types of Australian Film)


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