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Ten Canoes (ATOM Study Guide)

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Ten Canoes is a 2006 Australian feature film suitable for senior secondary and tertiary use. It is set in central Arnhem Land, in the time when the Indigenous peoples of Australia lived in traditional ways, as their ancestors had for many thousands of years before them, with close connections to the land. The film is set in two different times: the mythical past, a long ago time, just after the time when the ancestors lived and set the rules and standards of life, and then a more recent but unnamed past, when people lived according to the laws created by the ancestors. Narrated by David Gulpili and directed by Rolf De Heer. It tells the story of Dayindi (played by David Gulpilil's son, Jamie Gulpilil) who fancies one of the wives of his older brother. To teach him about the traditional laws to guide behaviour he is told a story from the mythical past, a story of wrong love, kidnapping, sorcery, bungling mayhem and revenge gone wrong. Through English storytelling and subtitled Ganalbingu language, Ten Canoes provides rich insights into Australian Indigenous lifestyles and cultures, and explores the more universal themes of relationships, family life, values, social mores, laws and systems, community and living in natural environments.

Curriculum Links:
Ten Canoes will be relevant and of interest to middle to senior secondary teachers and students of:
• Australian History
• Cultural Studies
• Indigenous Studies
• Australian Studies
• Art
• Geography
• Anthropology
• English
• Drama
• Studies of Religion
• Media Studies

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