A dramatized documentary about a legendary woman who lived for nearly half a century in the South Australian desert, “Kabbarli” (grandmother) is intriguing, but limited nature of the project leaves aud wanting more. Story of Daisy Bates was at one time mooted as a project for Katharine Hepburn. Lynne Murphy is, within the script’s limitations, effective as the eccentric woman who lived among Aboriginals while at the same time slanderously describing them as cannibals. Television outlets could be interested in this strange, but tentative, item.
Bates, a widowed grandmother who was never without straw hat, handbag and black parasol, saw the Aboriginal people as a dying race who needed her help “in their passing.” Until her death in 1951, she lived in a tent and made a frugal living from writing articles for newspapers, many of them wildly inaccurate. Film adopts a Brechtian, distancing approach to the material, with mixed results. Most interesting elements are saved for the end credits, where we’re told Bates was a bigamist, secretly married to Breaker Morant, and where we see and hear the real Daisy Bates via photographs and a radio interview.