Ten Canoes

Synopsis: A story within a story. In Australia's Northern Territory, a man tells us one of the stories of his people and his land. It's a story of an older man, Minygululu, who has three wives and realizes that his younger brother Dayindi may try to steal away the youngest wife. So, over a few days and several trips to hunt and gather, Minygululu tells Dayindi a story set in the time of their ancestors when a stranger came to the village and disrupted the lives of a serious man named Ridjimiraril, his three wives, and his younger brother Yeeralparil who had no wife and liked to visit his youngest sister-in-law. Through stories, can values be taught and balance achieved?
Production: Palm Pictures
  17 wins & 8 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
90 min

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away...

No, not like that. I'm only joking.

But I am going to tell you a story.

It's not your story...

it's my story...

... a story like you've never seen before.

But you want a proper story, eh?

Then I must tell you some things

of my people, and my land.

Then you can see this story, and know it.

This land began in the beginning.

Yurlunggur, that Great Water Goanna,

he travelled here.

Yurlunggur made all this land then.

He made this water...

... and he made this swamp,

that stretches long and gives us life.

I come from a waterhole

in this land Yurlunggur made.

I looked like a little fish

in my waterhole.

Then my father came near my waterhole.

I asked him for my mother.

I wanted to be born.

My father pointed out one of his wives.

That's your mother, he told me.

I waited until the right time...

... and I went just like that, into her vagina.

Then my father had a dream.

That dream let him know she had

a little one inside her.

That little one was me.

When I die, I will go back to my waterhole.

I'll be waiting there, like a little fish...

... waiting to be born again.

You didn't know all that, did you?

But it's a true thing.

It's always like that for my people.

Now we have to find where this story is,

this story I'm going to tell you.

We have to go back longtime...

... back to the time of my ancestors.


Ssshhhhhh... listen now...

... I can hear them coming,

my ancestors.

This wise looking one is Minygululu.

Then his younger brother Dayindi,

and then the other ones.

Too many names to remember.

Everyone stop!

That one is Djigirr.

Djigirr talks too much,

but maybe he heard something.

I refuse to walk at the end.

Someone ahead keeps farting.

- Not me! Not me!

- It's you again!

- Not me! Not me!

- You're always so silent!

- Silent but deadly!

- You're always so silent!

- Admit it!

- All right... it's me.

- You're rotten inside!

- I'm rotten inside.

- You're rotten inside!

You get to the end of the line.

C'mon let's go.

The ancestors are making canoes

for goose egg hunting.

They cut the barks off the trees

and they talk about women,

like always.

How did he go with her?

Did they do it?

- She doesn't want him!

- You must be blind!

- She doesn't want him!

They make fun of Dayindi.

They know Dayindi likes the young wife

of his brother Minygululu.

This is first time

Dayindi hunts the magpie geese.

There are many things

Dayindi hasn't seen before...

... and there is much for him to learn

on this hunt.

- Let me show you.

- I can manage.

- Let me show you.

- Sure.

- Who was that man?

Never mind him...

...some sort of sorcerer.

I hear...

...you're keen

on my wife?

The young one?

Roll it this way...


Minygululu knows it's true

about his young brother's wrong feelings.

I'm going to tell you a story

from long ago

and I want you to listen

very carefully.

The men will carry the barks

to the swamp.

Minygululu will tell Dayindi that story...

... to help him live the proper way.

It is Minygululu's story

for Dayindi back then.

And it is my story for you now.

It is a good story bu yo gotta listen ha?

Maybe this story will help you live

the proper way, eh?

And here is that story.

It is a long, long time ago.

Dayindi is still a little fish in his waterhole.

All the ancestors, that Minygululu, and Djigirr

and even the old sorcerer,

all of them, little fish in their waterholes.

All their fathers, and their fathers before that,

are still little fish in their waterholes,

all over this land, waiting to be born.

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Rolf de Heer

Rolf de Heer (born 4 May 1951) is a Dutch Australian film director. De Heer was born in Heemskerk in the Netherlands but migrated to Sydney when he was eight years old. He attended the Australian Film, Television and Radio School in Sydney. His company is called Vertigo Productions and is based in Adelaide. De Heer primarily makes alternative or arthouse films. According to the jacket notes of the videotape, de Heer holds the honor of co-producing and directing the only motion picture, Dingo, in which the jazz legend Miles Davis appears as an actor. Miles Davis collaborated with Michel Legrand on the score. He is the subject of the book Dutch Tilt, Aussie Auteur: The Films of Rolf de Heer (First edition – Saarbrücken, Germany: VDM, 2009. Second edition – Ebook: Starrs via Smashwords.com, 2013) by Dr D. Bruno Starrs. A comprehensive study of his films to date, Dancing to His Song: the Singular Cinema of Rolf de Heer by film critic Jane Freebury, is published in ebook and print (Currency Press & Currency House, 2015). His 2013 film Charlie's Country was selected to compete in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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