Tag Archives: memory

Massimiliano Mollona: Ethnographic filmmaking and the political imagination: A review of “Desert People” by Ian Dunlop (1967)

In the opening sequences of Desert People (1967, 49 minutes, Australian National Film Board), we read, “This is a film on two families of the western Australian desert.” But in fact the film’s real subject is the wonderful Gibson Desert—whose textural surface is magically rendered by black and white 35mm film—and the relationship with “its” people as they constantly move across it, stopping only for short moments of rest. This relationship is marked by material scarcity and hard labor. We see boys and men restlessly digging the hard surface of the desert with spears and wooden tools. We see their bodies slowly disappearing inside it, to reappear with handfuls of water, small lizards, and rats. We see women making food out of wild grass. We see families gathering to eat, forced into a momentary standstill by the heat of the sun at midday.
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