For my money, the best film on the unhappy clash of Civilization and indigenous culture is Walkabout. Though the action is framed by white suburban life in an Australian city, the drama is set in the Outback, home of the Aborigines, among the most threatened and devastated native peoples on the face of the Earth. There are two ways to look at this film. One is from the perspective of Civilization, which leads to an impatience with the lack of coherence in the sometimes surreal flow of imagery and some disapproval of the director’s evident preoccupation with the sexuality of the young girl at the center of the story, played by Jenny Agutter. The other perspective is from the Dreamtime point of view, which invites an appreciation for the nonlinear flow of events, and a deep sadness for the disappearance of a way of life. This track is embodied in the presence of a young Aboriginal hunter played by David Gulpilil. Its a visual poem on the interplay of two realities. Civilization is meant to be the villain here, but if this were a contest Civilization would be the clear winner.

In the film, Jenny and her little brother are abandoned in the Outback where they meet Gulpilil who is on his “walkabout,” an Aboriginal vision quest. The tension between the two cultures is played out as Gulpilil guides the two young Europeans back to Civilization – which had a bad odor in the early Seventies while the Dreamtime had a deep if regressive appeal to those who were stepping out of the pale of the past. A legend at the beginning of the film informs us that Aboriginal males, at the age of sixteen, must make a trek into the wilderness to achieve their adult identity. Fair warning: there is some prolonged idyllic nudity at the end of the film.

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