Words by Rachel Trevarthen
What does it feel like to have a foot in each world and a heart in none?
Highly acclaimed new film from the director of Bangarra Dance Theatre, SPEAR, follows a young man Djali who is grappling with this very question; how to place the ancient traditions of his culture into a modern world.
Drinking in scenes from the rugged Pacific coastline of Australia to the gritty urban spaces of Sydney, SPEAR takes one on an intimate journey with the artist and creators as they bring Aboriginal mythology to the big screen.
It seeks to avoid iconic Australian landscapes and instead show Indigenous people in a new light, one that fuses old and new while still being truthful to the present.
SPEAR is a directorial debut from Stephen Page in collaboration with dancers and creatives from Bangarra Dance Theatre. The World Premiere is at the Toronto International Film Festival 2015 and Australian Premiere at the Adelaide International Film Festival.
Page choreographed the contemporary works while Djakapurra Munyarryun, who plays Big Man, did the traditional choreography. The film is a family affair with Djali played by Hunter Page Lochard, Stephen’s son, and original music composed by David Page, Stephen’s brother.
For Stephen, SPEAR was about ‘creating a film like no other – that draws upon various artistic forms in creating it’s own unique landscape of storytelling.’
Running almost completely without dialogue, SPEAR is an abstract allegory of spirit, country, place and culture and walks the challenging cross section of adapting dance theatre to film.
Although it focuses on issues affecting young Indigenous men, it’s creators have been mindful to weave a female energy and spirit throughout the story, one who offers support, spiritual guidance and the opportunity for re-birth.
Reviews from abroad indicate that the abstracted worlds within which SPEAR oscillates could be difficult to determine so those going into see the film will benefit from pre-knowledge of the five main playing areas.
There is the real world comprised of urban locations like streets and tunnels as well as a beach and airstrip in Arnhem Land. Then there are three stylised internal words comprising a prison mess hall, a dressing room and strange dance hall. There is an interview space where people ‘talk’ directly to the camera, the womb as an industrial, textured concrete space and the theatre within which two sequences are performed.
Follow these dance stories as a ‘Serpent of Chapter’s and ‘lessons’ that Djali remembers and learns as he moves from young man to adult and finds out ‘how do I live in today’s world and not dismiss or turn my back on the past’?