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rosewart in heard_of_it

One of my obsessions - have you heard of it?

This is my obsession:

Jedda.

First ever colour movie made in Australia. Whilst it is the first ever colour movie made, it's still very obscure.
I came across this movie courtesy of a very good friend of mine, Ric Chauvel-Carlsson. Ric runs his own arthouse cinema at the back of my old work (Toowoomba Returned Services League) but has a more intimate connection to this movie.

His grandfather is Charles Chauvel, who was one of Australia's premier film writer/directors. Ric's mum, Susan Chauvel-Carlsson is in the process of writing a biography of her parents and their film/acting career.

So to Jedda: Firstly a little bit about the movie itself.
JEDDA was a major cinema release in 1956 in Australia and has long been regarded as a cinema classic in this country. For international audiences now that RABBIT PROOF FENCE has found success in most countries, it is well worth seeing JEDDA as a 1956 counterpart. Filmed in Gevacolour (not Technicolor) it was the first film made in any color here. Heralded at the time for its daring depiction of the real and confronting tribal practices of ancient aboriginal Australia JEDDA still is able today to enthrall a (slightly forgiving) audience and still make you appalled at the very racist White Australia policy in force from the Government of the day. Sadly some of the acting is dated, especially in the beginning, but once Jedda is a woman and the tribal lure starts, it really becomes fascinating. The use of color in the outback expanses and the extraordinary presence of the two genuine black Aboriginal main actors allows JEDDA to become a major statement about the well-meant but misguided practices of Government policies and how they are (still) totally unsuited to such a spiritual people. The sequence where Marbuck 'sings' to Jedda, seducing her in a hypnotic sexual trap is quite startling and un nerving. The climax of the film rivals NORTH BY NORTHWEST for spectacular mountaintop drama. JEDDA would be available from SCREENSOUND Australia the Canberra Archive and interested persons could buy it on-line. It is exceptionally interesting. A near counterpart from the USA is the 1947 Indian/Chinese drama BLACK GOLD, made by Allied Artists and Directed by noir expert Phil Karlson.

(from Imdb)

Some personal things I know about the movie making process involved.

Firstly, the farm shots were done on a property in South East Queensland called Materprinka (spelling???) which was owned by the grandparents of a very good friend of mine, Maria Richardson, at the time of shooting. Her father recalls that as each of the aboriginal (indigenous) actors arrived for each days shooting, they simply put their fingerprint on the page beside their 'anglo' name for payment. Charles made a point of ensuring all actors, natives or white, were paid according to their role. At a time in Australia when the White Australia Policy was rife and when aborigines weren't even COUNTED as Australian citizens, his actions were considered foolhardy.

Mr Richardson also recalls meeting Ric's mum and grandparents and noted that Susan (Ric's mum) was always taking notes, even though she was 21 at the time, she seemed so very much younger.

After they finished filming at the farm, they headed out to Katherine Gorge in Northern Territory where the majority of the scenes were shot. Each day, as each cannister of film was shot, they were placed in caves along the river to keep them cool as there was no onsite refrigeration and each evening, these cannisters were flown to Darwin to be kept in a butchers fridge until a plane could fly them to London for processing as there were NO colour studio film processing in Australia at the time.

the 'rushes' were produced in London at Ealing Studios and as they were done, a telegram would be sent with "scene 66 OK, scene 32 needs redoing, scene 125 ok, scene 72 ok" and so forth. For each one that was too dark, under exposed, over exposed etc, they had to reshoot and go through the same process.

Charles and Elsa backed this film with their own money and whilst it did very well overseas, for some reason it didn't do well in their own country.

Chauvel was self-reliant—serving as his own business manager, director, writer, publicist and distributor. His publicity was flamboyant and both of his silent films were modest commercial successes. In 1928 he went to Hollywood to seek American releases but found the market in the throes of transition to sound. He returned to Australia and worked as a cinema-manager in Melbourne before settling at Stanthorpe, Queensland.

Stanthorpe is a two hour drive from Toowoomba where Ric lives.

His final feature, Jedda (1955), was Australia's first in colour. It was shot largely in central and northern Australia and told the story of a young Aboriginal torn between her own people and her white foster-parents. He then made a series of thirteen half-hour films entitled Walkabout for British Broadcasting Corporation television. The series taxed Chauvel's energy, and he died of coronary vascular disease at his home at Castlecrag, Sydney, on 11 November 1959 and was buried in the Anglican section of Northern Suburbs cemetery. He was survived by his wife and daughter.

Ric and Susan get an opportunity each year to meet the recipient of the Charles Chauvel Award. The winners so far are:
1993 Paul Cox
1994 Fred Schepisi
1995 Gillian Armstrong
1996 Dr George Miller
1997 John Seale
1998 Rolf de Heer
1999 Bob Ellis
2000 Bryan Brown
2001 Bob Connolly and Robin Anderson
2002 Jan Chapman
2003 Anthony Buckley A.M.
2004 Geoffrey Rush

(not sure of the last couple of years)

Sorry if I've really rambled on, but well... this film is an obsession of mine fuelled by KNOWING many people who were involved in making of it. It's not like when I was heavily involved as an extra in Queen of the Damned as that film is NOT obscure (although, if Aaliyah hadn't died the tragic way she did, it WOULD have fallen into film obscurity and been known as a tragic goth film).

Comments

oh wow!! I watched that last year for English! We were doing Australian Literature. Really, it was an amazing movie when you look at it historically. Very controversial. There were a few questions we had about it though, and i'd love your opinion. Let's hope I can remember it properly. We were looking at it, and we were wondering if we could see it as an Aboriginal Text or not. Because it does in fact tell a story that Aboriginal people can understand, on one side- woman goes with a man who she is not supposed to go with, and is punished for it, while learning about the strength of the land. At the same time it tells the White Person story- about race and class difference and superiority and so on. It can be seen as both stories. What do you think? Also we were interested by the fact that in the end, it wasn't the aboriginal people or the white people who killed her- it was the land.

We saw some great pictures of the opening night in the cinema- all the aboriginal people up in a position of admiration! SUCH a great step forward.
GREAT post!!
Not an aboriginal text at all.

Charles and Elsa wrote the script as the days went on. The story is based on folklore and they... made it their own.

The main reason Charles and Elsa made the movie was to show that the White Australia Policy and the assimilating of Aboriginal children into white culture wasn't going to work in the long run.

Charles and Elsa never got the admiration they truly deserved for this movie during their lifetime and Ric and Susan (grandson = Ric, daughter = Susan) still own the copyright to every movie he ever made. The movies themselves are in the Museum in Canberra for preservation.

The story was essentially a call to the land and the loss of a child - in both cultures. I am amazed at times the ... depth that is found within the subtext and text of the movie that were NOT intended when it was being made!

I'll let Ric know it's being studied at some schools in English Lit. He'll be very proud.
no no, I meant more that Aboriginals can get something out of it as a text, like it fits their own stories as well. I just found that interesting.

It's being studied very enthusiastically in my university. :) Our lecturer really likes it.
Ric was so surprised to know it's being studied in English Lit at a Uni and very proud to know that his grandfather and his work is being recognised. Thank you for telling us.

I hadn't thought about it from the Aboriginal side of pov. It certainly fits with their stories of 'the stolen generation' - which I know did occur.
I'm surprised that he didn't think that it would have been! I'm pretty sure it's studied in some film classes too sometimes. And possibly history classes in schools...
Well, I'm glad that I was able to make someone happy. :)
It also works (according to our lecturer) as an Aboriginal romance/warning story.
I think at times Ric and his Mum don't realise just how important Charles Chauvel still is.

Ric has his own cinema that he runs at the back half of the Toowoomba RSL but can only get just enough people to attend to break even. It's a pity, his idea is brilliant - a 1950's style bar/lounge area, small entree food served before the movie. All drinks served in real glass, tea and coffee cups. Real popcorn made in an old fashioned popcorn maker and he stands up the front in a suit to introduce the evenings entertainment. He always gets his films from the Australian Film Library and he 'tweaks' it himself, on 75(??)mm films. He can also play DVD's - he showed Mel Gibson's Christ movie for the local catholic churches because it wasn't shown by the major cinema in town (Birch Carrol and Coyle I think).

Thank you for all your assistance. I've removed myself from the community for a little while in the hopes that the posting settles *smile* I'll be back though.
The posting should settle since now we're a moderated community. :) It'll be a little faster than 'pre spotlight' but it should at least not be full of rubbish.

That really does sound completely fantastic. If I were in Toowoomba, I'd definitely go. Don't suppose he advertises online? Those sorts of things are hard to find out about. I went to a night once here in Adelaide where we were the youngest two people in the audience who were not dragged there by Granny (we were about 18) and it was the old cinema experience. But no one else I know, has ever seen the advertising for it, and I think we heard through word of mouth.
I just had a quick look - and there is something on the council website: http://www.toowoomba.qld.gov.au/index.php?option=com_tccevents&task=view&eventId=1346&Itemid=106 about this month's movie (last weekend).

His audiences range from primary schoolers with their parents to the elderly, and it's usually only about 80 or so at any showing. My son used to 'bus' the tables whilst I volunteered each month and in turn we'd get to see the show for free. Ric always had a cartoon, short or news reel and then the main feature, which he would stop at a really interesting point for "interval" to have a cuppa etc for half an hour. He is also fully licenced too, so you could have a beer or a glass of wine in a really relaxed atmosphere.

Arthur, my son, is now 13 and he still watches whatever old movies catch our interest on paytv and the bio channel. So far, thanks to Ric, Arthur's favourite is "Arsenic and Old Lace".

Ric does try to do some advertising and he's got some great fliers, with a brilliant photo of him leaning on one of his cameras in his suit, but his funds ARE limited and his partner had pulled out a few weeks before completion back in 2002. It was very disappointing as he had planned on having it run every weekend plus a matinee on Wednesdays for pensioners. Hopefully that will come to fruition one day.

it really is the old cinema experience and one I wish our kids got a regular chance to see, but let's face it, movies are just too expensive to go every weekend now!

It really truly does sound fantastic, and I wish him luck with it! I wish there was a... lj that I could go and 'pimp' it on. There's a comm for things that are 'on' in Adelaide. Maybe there's one around for that area.
I also enjoy old movies and don't discriminate just because they're old. Some of them are completely fantastic!
Ric opened in November 2003. The first movie he showed was Sunset Boulevarde with a cartoon and newsreel from the year it was produced plus a little spiel from Ric about the movie and some 'insider' information.

He has his program set a year in advance and for many of the weekends between then and when I left in July last year, Ric, my son and I were the only three people 'manning' everything - entry (me), bar (Ric and I), kitchen (me) and bussing tables (Arthur) yet we'd still have it all running to time. Because he runs to such a tight budget, he couldn't employ people, but he is a trained barista and (forget the correct word, but behind bars for serving wine etc) and also 'front of house' (He was working at The Bindi Spot as front of house to supplement his income).

Ric also has a travelling outdoor theatre which he takes out to more remote areas of SE Qld to show his films.

He's the same age as I am (40 this year) and is very determined to make this work. I admire his great attitude.

My husband loved it too - he got the house to himself once a month on a Fri night, Sat arvo and Sat evening *grin* so it was win win all over the place!
Well, I really hope it works!
We miss it, but we're too far away now.

Ah well, it's survived for four years, I'm sure it will continue to thrive.
This IS a landmark film of Australian cinema - but my knowledge of it has faded as I have only seen it when I did my BA over a decade ago. I remember there were some really compelling scenes, such as when Jedda is 'tamed' into the household, and then later when she feels the call of her heritage awakening her again. I also remember there was a really unfortunate bit of casting, with the Aboriginal 'hero' who was in love with Jedda being played by a white actor. It's such a shame that they resorted to that when they were so admirable in other things they did while making the film.

It's a beautiful looking film, though. Wish they would give it a proper release on DVD with special features about the making of it! Restored of course, I remember the print we watched was pretty beaten up.

I agree, great post!
haha yeah... he was white and in blackface. It was... really really bad that aspect of it. He was supposed to be part aboriginal part afghan I think.
I just remember a scene where he was thrashing about in the water, and when he emerged the makeup had practically run off.
yep!
Oh and it was also interesting how they did it because they had to film 'night' scenes, during the day...
If you want to see bad blackface, check out Ed Deveraux (Ranger Matt Hammond from Skippy) in The Sundowners.
If you're talking about Robert Tudawali, he most definitely was Aboriginal.
I don't know the actor's name, but it was the guy who was working on the farm of her adoptive parents, as a 'civilised' aboriginal man.
Ah, in that case, I don't think it was Tudawali. He played the aboriginal guy who drags Jedda up the mountain in that great climactic scene.

Gawd, it's been so long since I saw that movie, I can barely remember much of it.
ah nope. That guy was DEFINITELY aboriginal for real! No, the other guy was the one who was 'supposed' to marry Jedda.
There was a really good telemovie biopic about Tudawali, starring Ernie Dingo, years back.

See Bob Tudawli and the great white hunter
And old run jungle Jack
Laughin and drinkin' none of ya thinkin'
of the thirsy prisioner out the back


~ Darwin Jail House Window - Reg Lindsay