Peace is given a chance in the worthy but dull docu, “Dhakiyarr vs. the King,” when the contempo descendants of two Oz protags, one indigenous black, one white, try to heal the racial rift generated when their forefathers had a fatal conflict 70 years previously. Following travels through Oz’s fest circuit last year, pic’s first Stateside unspooling at Sundance may help to elevate its profile. But this slight film is largely destined for low-key, PC-friendly tube slots.
In 1933, Dhakiyarr, a tribal leader of North Australia’s Arnhem land, was incarcerated after spearing a cop he mistakenly believed was assaulting his wife. Australia’s Commonwealth Law Court (representing the U.K. monarchy) overturned the murder conviction the following year, but Dhakiyarr mysteriously disappeared on his release date. The Yolngu people still mourn the suspicious event. Archival photographs and re-enactments attempt to add variety to the talking heads, but pic remains as dry as the Australian desert. Regrettably, several aboriginal ritual dances, which could have provided greater visual interest, are statically presented. While the initial dilemma is clearly delineated and the final demonstration of reconciliation impressive, docu lacks the emotional heft that clearly motivated the participants. Tech credits are broadcast quality.