×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Toomelah

Made as a solo shoot on a shoestring budget by Aussie helmer Ivan Sen ("Yellow Fella") with non-pro actors, the meandering tale provides a quiet indictment of the miserable legacy white Australia created for its indigenous people.

With:
With: Daniel Connors, Christopher Edwards, Michael Connors, Danieka Connors, Dean Daley-Jones.

A verite-style coming-of-ager, “Toomelah” slowly weaves the story of a 10-year-old boy, product of a broken home, as he aspires to join a gang of older drug dealers and petty criminals on the eponymous aboriginal reservation in northwest New South Wales. Made as a solo shoot on a shoestring budget by Aussie helmer Ivan Sen (“Yellow Fella”) with non-pro actors, the meandering tale provides a quiet indictment of the miserable legacy white Australia created for its indigenous people. More ethnographic portrait than polished narrative, pic should have greatest resonance Down Under and find an offshore market at fests and alternative venues.

Child of a penniless, drug-addicted mother and an alcoholic father, aggressive Daniel (intense screen natural Daniel Connors) is suspended from school, and spends his time shadowing motor-mouth pot pusher Linden (Christopher Edwards) and his gang as they idle away the days. When rival drug dealer Bruce (impressively muscled Dean Daley-Jones) returns from prison and tries to impinge on Linden’s turf, it precipitates a violent showdown.

Comparisons to Warwick Thornton’s “Samson and Delilah” seem inevitable, although that pic is infinitely more accomplished. In “Toomelah,” the genre elements and efforts to close the tale with a positive twist feel forced, yet Sen’s nonjudgmental portrait of dysfunctional families and a community long ravaged by drugs, alcohol, forced assimilation, and the “stolen children” of the 1940s, rings wrenchingly true.

Earnest acting by the cast of amateurs creates a certain monotone that isn’t helped by the editing — or lack of it (no editor was credited on the print or in press material). But docudrama scenes showing community elders teaching youngsters their traditional lingo at the mission school, and lively musical performances with lyrics that recount the tribulations of reservation life, come off as more natural and lift the pic’s tempo. However, more expressive than any performance are the faces of the locals, which Sen dwells on at length, often in extreme closeup.

As in Sen’s debut feature, “Beneath Clouds,” the pic’s most striking element is the cinematography, which captures the unique beauty of the outback locations. An ambient soundtrack of barking dogs, approaching storms, droning planes and murmuring voices adds to the verisimilitude.

The garish music track credited to Sen has the feel of a temporary score. Scenes that unfold like musicvideos under gangster-rap tunes may epitomize Daniel’s dream of being a “bad cunt,” but evoke cringes.

Screening caught was subtitled in English as well as French, a necessity with the difficult-to-decipher idiom and accents.

Popular on Variety

Toomelah

Australia

Production: A Curious Films Distribution release of Bunya Prods. production in association with Screen Australia, Screen New South Wales. (International sales: Visit Films, New York.) Produced by David Jowsey. Directed, written by Ivan Sen.

Crew: Camera (color, DV), Sen; music, Sen; sound, Kevin Binge, Sam Haywood. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Un Certain Regard), May 13, 2011. Running time: 106 MIN.

With: With: Daniel Connors, Christopher Edwards, Michael Connors, Danieka Connors, Dean Daley-Jones.

More Film

  • Leonardo Dicaprio Once Upon a Time

    Leonardo DiCaprio's Earth Alliance Commits $5 Million to Amazon Fires

    Earth Alliance, an environmental initiative backed by Leonardo DiCaprio, has committed $5 million toward the preservation of the Amazon rain forest following an alarming surge in wildfires. After launching Sunday, the organization’s emergency Amazon Forest Fund is working to support local partners and indigenous communities in their efforts to protect the sensitive habitats within the [...]

  • (from left) Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson)

    Box Office: 'Hobbs & Shaw' Scores $102 Million Debut in China, Nears $600 Million Globally

    Universal’s “Hobbs & Shaw” returned to first place on the international box office charts, thanks to a massive $102 million debut in China. The “Fast & Furious” spinoff, starring Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham, collected another $120 million overseas, boosting its foreign tally to $441 million. “Hobbs & Shaw” is nearing the $600 million mark [...]

  • Angel Has Fallen

    Box Office: 'Angel Has Fallen' Rises to No. 1 With $21 Million Debut

    “Angel Has Fallen,” the third chapter in Lionsgate and Millenium’s action franchise starring Gerard Butler, had a stronger opening weekend than expected, collecting $21.25 million during its first three days of release. Those ticket sales were enough to top domestic box office charts, bumping last weekend’s champ, Universal’s comedy “Good Boys,” to second place. Starring [...]

  • Amanda

    ‘Amanda’ Takes Home Best Int’l Film at 15th Sanfic

    SANTIAGO, Chile    French director Mikhael Hers’ “Amanda” scooped up the Best Int’l Film award Saturday (Aug. 24) at the 15th Santiago Int’l Film Fest (Sanfic), which reported a 20% audience uptick in the past two years and continues to grow its reputation as the most vibrant and prominent film festival in Latin America’s Southern [...]

  • disney d23

    Cruella, Kit Harington and Black Panther's Return: Everything We Learned at D23 Day Two

    Not to be outdone by the avalanche of series orders and casting announcements bolstering the new streaming series Disney Plus, Walt Disney Studios showed off its film wares in a marathon presentation at D23 on Saturday. The Anaheim, Calif. expo brought star power, if perhaps fewer surprises than Friday’s presentation, as fans in princess and [...]

  • Harvey Weinstein, Katie Holmes, Taylor Swift'The

    Taylor Swift Downplays Association With Harvey Weinstein

    Taylor Swift’s association with disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was among the topics the singer addressed in a revealing new interview with The Guardian. Weinstein held producer credits for the movies “One Chance” and “The Giver,” both of which featured Swift — in the former, a song, and in the latter, a supporting role. She [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content