New to VOD via Microsoft this week:
PUTUPARRI AND THE RAINMAKERS
Hot Docs, New Zealand
An aboriginal man recounts his family’s decades-long fight to regain their native claim to ancestral land.
Ma’s film focuses on Tom Lawford, whose aboriginal name is Putuparri, whose people were uprooted from their land by white Australians. While elders like his grandparents were directly affected, and have felt a longing to return for decades, younger generations like his own have been left rootless, disconnected from language and culture, and prone to drug and alcohol abuse. After the Australian government acknowledged past Aboriginal mistreatment and affirmed their sovereignty, they began hearing land claims. With his family making such a claim for their ancestral homeland of Kurtal, Putuparri experienced a reconnection with his culture, including traditional rainmaking rituals, and has since become a leader for his people. The film details how Putuparri oversaw a convergence of Aboriginals that resulted in the painting of a massive map delineating various native lands – a canvas that has traveled throughout the country and helped set boundaries for land claims. Because Kurtal itself has not been officially recognized, however, Putuparri continues his struggle. While Ma has taken on a worthwhile topic, her use of Putuparri as a narrator makes the project feel overextended as a whole, and too rooted in the past, robbing the film of a forward-moving dynamism.