Reviewed by GREG KING
Directors: Natasha Gadd, Rhys Graham.
This locally produced documentary is both topical and timely.
Murundak follows a group of aboriginal musicians, performing under the collective name of the Black Arm Band, as they stage a number of concerts aimed at raising awareness of indigenous issues. It follows the band from the concert halls of the Sydney Opera House to remote Aboriginal communities of the Northern Territory. The band was initially formed in 2006 as part of the Melbourne International Art Festival. They have taken their name in response to John Howard’s infamous and unapologetic speech in which he said: “This black arm band view of our past reflects a belief that most Australian history since 1788 has been little more than a disgraceful story… I take a very different view.”
The songs may be defiant protest songs, but they are also songs of hope and reconciliation, and a celebration of unity. Although husband and wife filmmakers Natasha Gadd and Rhys Graham (Words From the City, etc) clearly have an agenda to push here, the film is still very entertaining. They trace the rise in indigenous political activism from the early 70’s. They have included plenty of archival footage tracing the history of the aboriginal protest movement in support of equality, land rights and justice, which gives us further context for the songs.
A number of artists, including Archie Roach, Kutcha Edwards, the late Ruby Hunter, as well as rising young stars like Dan Sultan (from Bran Nue Dae, etc), talk about what the songs mean to them personally, and to their people in general. The musicians also talk about the healing power of music to bring together people from diverse cultures and traditions.
The filmmakers were also present outside Parliament House during Kevin Rudd’s historic apology to the Stolen Generation, and they capture the genuine emotional impact of that speech. The move away from a conservative government has filled the musicians with a sense of optimism that things are about to change for the better. It is that spirit that suffuses this documentary.