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Toomelah (Ivan Sen, 2011) Michael Conners, Daniel Conners, Dean Daley-Jones; drama

The fact that I'm dismayed by Toomelah is irrelevant to its astonishingness. It's my own fault. I was hoping for another Beneath Clouds (2002) and should have known better, given that I knew something about the actual Toomelah former-mission community.

There's one shot of some clouds, as if Sen were saying: 'I know what some of you were expecting, and I can still do it – but this is a completely different kind of film.'

It's mostly astonishing in the circumstances of its making: that Ivan Sen was the writer, director, director of photography, camera operator, voice coach, editor, ... and wrote - and performed - the music. I would add soundman, but on the DVD are some making-of clips that show one of the cast holding the mike.

I wonder if there's ever been another dramatic feature film made entirely (apart from the actors) by one person. This may well be the only feature film made with no non-Indigenous input on set. (The producer, David Jowsey, is probably not-Aboriginal, and there would have been others such in post-production.)

It's not an enjoyable film, imo, but it's certainly a very remarkable - and necessary - one. It was shown at Cannes in 2011, nominated for an award in the category Un Certain Regard. The young lead, Daniel Conners, won the FCCA Award 2012 for Best Performance by a Young Actor.

See also: Lorraine Mortimer, 'Poetry in the Air: Mad Bastards and Toomelah', Senses of Cinema.

Garry Gillard | New: 4 October, 2012 | Now: 29 June, 2020