Ten Canoes

Cast: Crusoe Kurddal, Jamie Gulpilil, David Gulpilil (voice)

Yolngu and English with English subtitles

Forbidden love in Australia's mythical past.

Rated M (moderate violence, naturalistic nudity)

Director Rolf de Heer

State Library Theatre

Tickets $13.50–$18

  • Drama

Awards & Reviews

‘To watch this movie is to enter into a whole new language of symbols and meaning, the likes of which I have rarely encountered in cinema.’


Forbidden love in Australia's mythical past

'Once upon a time, in a land far, far away…' David Gulpilil’s voiceover breaks into a chuckle, then adds; 'no, not like that.' Swooping over lush forested swamp land in Northern Territory, we’re shown a time before Western contact, when men gathered magpie goose eggs in bark canoes. The story concerns a man whose younger brother desires his attractive young wife. To instruct the young brother of how to behave, the man tells of a time when a similar love triangle risked a war. Following the success of The Tracker, de Heer mused on what could be done to make further progress with Indigenous Australian stories on screen. Ten Canoes is the extraordinary result; an extensive collaboration between de Heer, David Gulpilil and the people of Gulpilil’s native Yolngu Country in Arafura Swamp, Arnhem Land. In its authentic voicing of Indigenous culture through stories, its playfulness and it first-ever use of an Indigenous language in a feature film, Ten Canoes is unique in cinema. Eleven years since initial release, it stands as a landmark in the perception of Australia on film.

Screening format: 35mm

The screening will be introduced by Rolf de Heer

Dates, Times & Access

State Library Theatre

Wheelchair access


In Conversation: Rolf de Heer & Molly Reynolds

In Conversation: Rolf de Heer & Molly Reynolds

Rolf de Heer and Molly Reynolds will discuss their work with Fenella Kernebone, where they will share their experiences filming in remote Australia and collaborating with Indigenous communities – and discuss what it means to be a true independent voice in Australian cinema. Free to ticket holders.

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