Thursday, September 9, 2010

Aussie Film "Bran Nue Dae" Opens September 10th

Bran Nue Dae U.S.

Click Here to watch the official trailer

Movie musical alert – the lighthearted Aussie film import Bran Nue Dae opens in theatres tomorrow.

Based on one of Australia’s most beloved and long-running stage musicals by Jimmy Chi and the band Kuckles, Bran Nue Dae doesn't claim to be a slick theatrical film version of a sophisticated Broadway musical. Its charm comes from its homespun nature and everyday likeable characters that find themselves thrown together under comical circumstances – and yes, it just so happens that they sing and dance too…not as über trained professionals, but as real people.

It’s the tale of Willie (newcomer Rocky Mckenzie), a young aboriginal teen who learns to stand up for himself when everyone around him would have him change his true self. The stakes may not be life or death, but the coming of age story of a boy who crosses a continent to return to what is most important to him will resonate with moviegoers that enjoy more sentimental fare.

It’s 1969 and young Willie has spent his summer vacation like many boys his age; fishing, hanging out with his friends, and getting up the courage to tell his girlfriend Rosie (Australian Idol runner-up, Jessica Mauboy) how he feels about her. Before he can do that, however, a handsome singer arrives on the scene vying for Rosie's affections and a disheartened Willie gives up and returns to boarding school 3000 miles away in Perth.

Back at school, Willie and his friends get into "serious" trouble by stealing some of Father Benedictus’ (a very kooky Geoffrey Rush) private stash of chocolate bars and Cokes. Willie owns up to the deed but before he can be punished he runs away. Hungry, alone, and unsure of how he’ll ever get back home, he meets a homeless man, ‘Uncle’ Tadpole (Ernie Dingo, reprising his role from the original stage musical) who decides he will help Willie get back to Broome.

Tadpole throws himself in front of a hippie couple’s van and guilts free spirit Annie (singer-songwriter Missy Higgins) and her German uptight wannabe hippie boyfriend Slippery (Tom Budge) into taking them on a cross-country journey the two tourists never saw coming.

It’s a road trip filled with oddball characters and surreal situations set against the backdrop of the gorgeous Australian outback, shot by Academy Award-winning cinematographer Andrew Lesnie (Lord of the Rings, The Lovely Bones).

The film’s iconic music, known as the “Broome Sound” is the result of an eclectic mix of influences - Malay and Indonesian keronchong (a kind of folk ballad using ukuleles and mandolins), vintage Hawaiian melodies with harmonica and slack key guitar, Australian country & western songs, and even traditional sounds of the Aboriginal bush people - all framed by the reggae music of the 70s.

Several of the songs grew out of the Indigenous political protests of the ‘80s, such as the title track “Bran Nue Dae” and the absurdly ironic “Nothing I Would Rather Be.” Sung by Willie and a chorus of his schoolmates, the 1920’s style showstopper features a back flip and Aborigine kick line with lyrics that exemplify writer Jimmy Chi’s humour and political point of view:

"There's nothing I would rather be
Than to be an Aborigine
and watch you take my precious land away.
For nothing gives me greater joy
than to watch you fill each girl and boy
with superficial existential shit."

Taken at face value, one might possibly miss the themes of separation, exploitation and reconciliation that lie beneath the film’s frivolous surface - all smiles and jazz hands at first glance - but they are there, however subtle.

And so, director Rachel Perkins, playwright Reg Cribb and Jimmy Chi have created the first Aboriginal movie musical born out of a deep love of their people and their heritage.

Perkins says, “Bran Nue Dae…has something essential to say about life. To laugh, sing and dance are some of our greatest and simplest pleasures. These things are essentially human; they lift our spirits and make us feel good. This is how I felt some twenty years ago when I stood with the rest of the audience and cheered Bran Nue Dae, the stage musical. It is the same feeling we hope to give the cinema audience.”

My guest, who happened to be Native American, appreciated the point of view of the Indigenous writers, rather than watching another film about Indigenous people written by non-Natives. Authenticity always enhances the work.

And I am a true musical theatre geek who appreciates all forms of musical theatre, from the corny to the esoteric. We both left feeling better than before we sat down.

You won’t find high drama or biting satirical commentary here, however you will find likeable characters, a casual cheekiness and a large dose of sentimental comfort delivered with a sly wink. Plus, I guarantee you’ve never seen Geoffrey Rush in this kind of a role before.

Bran Nue Dae opens Friday, September 10 at:
Pacific Theatres, The Grove, Los

Opening on Friday, September 17 at:

Laemmle’s Monica 4-Plex, Santa Monica
Laemmle’s Playhouse 7, Pasadena

Edwards Westpark 8, Irvine

Regency’s Racho Niguel 8, Laguna

For more info visit

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