88 proved to be as good as most reviewers have said. Having been part of the crowd who cheered as the Indigenous marchers wheeled from Elizabeth Street into Eddy Avenue, it thrilled me again to hear how some participants felt in that moment. I joined the procession at that point, partly as a “white Australian” supporting the recognition of our nation’s far longer history and the sadness that is dispossession, but also as one even then aware of the probability that the story my father and mother told me was true – that one of my own grandmothers may well have been of Aboriginal descent. It was a great day, as far as I am concerned, 26 January 1988 – and that day and the people I met around that time altered forever my view of this country, of myself, and of my place in this land. I still of course had much to learn, and am still learning to this day.
By chance I happened on a treat on NITV earlier in the week: a 2001 work from Blackfella Films’ Rachel Perkins. It had passed me by at the time, though presumably it had screened on ABC. In part it rehearses the archetype of the child lost in the bush, so much a part of the Australian literary and artistic tradition.
One Night the Moon is a 2001 Australian musical non-feature film starring husband and wife team Paul Kelly, a singer-songwriter, and Kaarin Fairfax, a film and television actress, and their daughter Memphis Kelly.[ Directed by Rachel Perkins and written by Perkins with John Romeril, it was filmed on Andyamathanha land in the Flinders Ranges, South Australia for six weeks in early 2000. Kelton Pell portrayed an Aboriginal tracker, Albert Yang, with Ruby Hunter playing his wife, who searches for the missing child. Musical score was by Kelly, Kev Carmody and Mairead Hannan, and with other artists they also contributed to the soundtrack. The film won ten awards, including two Australian Film Institute(AFI) Awards.
One Night the Moon was inspired by the story of indigenous tracker, Alexander Riley as depicted in Black Tracker (1997), a documentary directed by Riley’s grandson, Michael Riley. Alexander Riley had worked for the New South Wales police in Dubbo in the early 1900s, finding wanted criminals, missing persons and hidden caches. Composer/singer Mairead Hannan saw the documentary and formed a project with her sister Deirdre Hannan, Kelly, Carmody, Alice Garner, Romeril and Perkins. Aside from the search for a missing child, the film deals with the racist attitude depicted by the father’s refusal to use an indigenous tracker. The film was Paul Kelly’s cinematic debut, while his then wife, Fairfax had a lead role in two related TV mini-series Harp in the South and Poor Man’s Orange in 1987, and roles in films Belinda (1988) and Young Einstein (1989). Fairfax had her film debut with a minor role in 1982’s Starstruck which had Paul Kelly and the Dots supplying a song for the soundtrack….
What a pedigree! But it is also an oddity, as this JJJ review noted.
One Night The Moon is a “strange bird”, one of the oddest musicals to come our way since Dancer In The Dark(2000), with its dark story of racism and tragedy. Radiancedirector Rachel Perkins and a rock solid collaborative team are behind One Night The Moon, not the least of whom were the film’s music composers Paul Kelly, Kev Carmody and Mairead Hannan….
Paul Kelly, Kaarin Fairfax and Kelton Pell manage One Night The Moon’s sung dialogue and heavy emotional turf with grace and quiet determination. It’s powerful and timely film, a poetic hybrid of opera and music video, which dishes out some home truths about Australia’s chequered past.
I am glad I saw it at last.
I had thought, by the way, to do a post today on recent trends here in Oz called “The Triumph of the Dill”. Nice title, eh? From a field now so depressingly vast as dilldom rules at the moment I might have selected Andrew Bolt claims to be an Indigenous Australian on the “Snide” Report – not that Barry Everingham is a dill – far from it. Read that piece. Like the rabbit, the camel and the cane toad, Andrew Bolt is an Australian Indigene, it appears. However, I find I have used the title already in another place: Triumph of the dill.