Satellite Boy:"The people are the land"
Celebrate NAIDOC Week
NAIDOC Week is an Australian observance lasting from the first Sunday in July until the following Sunday. NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee. It has its origins in the 1938 Day of Mourning, becoming a week-long event in 1975.
Vale David Gulpilil Ridjimiraril Dalaithngu (1953? - 29 November 2021)
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains an image of a deceased person.
Satellite Boy (2013)
Satellite Boy is one of those films that slips into town without great fanfare, has a modest run and then fades from your local cinema. It is also a film that deserves to be watched.
Remember, it’s a low-key film so expect it to be slow-paced and contemplative. It also clocks in under two hours, which is unusual for a feature film these days.
Pete (Cameron Wallaby) is a boy who lives with his Grandfather Jagamarra (David Gulpilil) just outside a small town in remote Australia.
Their residence is a deserted projection room for a drive-in cinema that has long ago faded into a collection of rusted wood and metal.
If someone asked you to identify your home, what answer would you give? Would you say the name of the city in which you were born, a place where you lived for a significant time or where you happen to be at the moment?
Jagamarra and Pete’s room might be where they stay but the projection room isn’t their home. It provides shelter from the elements. Their real home extends in every direction and exists under their feet simultaneously. It is close and far away. They feel it with their toes and sense it with their hands.
Their home is the land and Jagamarra is connected in ways that are inexplicable. It just is. Although Pete lives with Jagamarra, the young boy doesn’t respect his grandfather’s ways. He calls them "old ways" and he is more interested in the new ways of a modern existence.
Jagamarra tries to show the boy and teach him what it is that binds them to the land. Director Catriona McKenzie dwells and rests the camera on shots of shadows crossing the land, grasses, trees, wind and sun.
Pete’s beliefs are tested when a mining company arrives and tells Pete and his grandfather that they must move because the land is going to be used as a depot for the company’s equipment.
Jagamarra doesn’t understand how anyone could try to separate him from the land. Pete decides to travel to town to plead with the miner’s to let his grandfather stay where he is.
Pete is joined in his quest by his close friend Kalmain (Joseph Pedley), who is in trouble with the police and decides to escape with Pete into the countryside.
They soon discover that the two-day journey to town is not a simple trip. They will need food, shelter, heat and a keen sense of direction. Pete soon rediscovers the bush skills taught to him by Jagamarra. It becomes the difference between survival and losing their way. They truly find their way and not just in terms of direction.
Jagamarra beckons the stars above to return his grandson. He knows that land has taken him.
The film is about the love between a grandfather and a grandson, it's about family and people and respect for the land framed by the story of their displacement from their place of shelter.
Dalaithngu has been a stalwart in Australian films including Ten Canoes, The Proposition, The Tracker, Storm Boy and Crocodile Dundee. He is embedded in the Australian film landscape.
Satellite Boy gets to the heart and soul of what it is to be one with the land. The landscape is the star and the people are the land.
Satellite Boy will remind you gently of what is essential in your life. We have plenty of gadgets to surround us but Jagamarra understands and Pete discovers what we really need.
WATCH Satellite Boy (2013)
Available to Buy/Rent on Apple TV +, Netflix & Amazon Prime
Check availability for your region.
FURTHER READING from the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia website
Australian Rules (2002)
In Prospect Bay, a remote town on the South Australian coast, the only thing that holds two communities together is Australian Rules football (Aussie Rules). Two communities come together on the one field they have in common, the Aussie Rules football field. But the racial undercurrents threaten to break personal bonds and ruin communities. This holds particularly true for Gary, a white teen who is more interested in books than sport, and his best friend, Dumby, the Aboriginal star of the team.
WATCH Australian Rules
Available to Rent/Buy on Apple TV +, Film Affinity Australia, Microsoft Store, Google Play & Beamafilm
Free (Registration required) on Film Affinity USA
Check availability for your region.
Acknowledgement of Country
Screen Speak acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their elders past and present.