Term Paper: Canoes Racism and Film: An Examination

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¶ … Canoes

Racism and Film: An Examination of the Film Ten Canoes

We like to think of ourselves as a society that has grown past the limitations of racism. However, this is unfortunately not yet true. Racist stereotypes still find a way to present even within modern society. Yet, modern technologies are providing ways for these ethnic minorities to come out and share their perspectives and opinions with the world. For example, film becomes a medium that has allowed minority cultural groups to try to reconnect with their cultural norms before they were so distorted by European colonialism.

Racism and colonialism forever changed the way people of different cultures interact each other. According to Stam & Spence, colonialism is "the process by which the European powers (including the United States) reached a position of economic, military, political and cultural domination in much of Asia, Africa, and Latin America" (Stam & Spence 753). Colonialism spread quickly across the entire globe. European countries granted the chance to break up with a considered as inferior societies in order to pillage their land and natural resources in the process justifying their own violent behaviors using racism. Essentially, "this process, which can be traced at least as far back as the voyages of discovery and which had as its corollary the institution of the slave trade, reached its apogee between 1900 and the end of World War I (at which point Europe had colonized roughly 85% of the earth) and began to be reversed only with the disintegration of the European colonial empires after World War II" (Stam & Spence 753). Many people fail to realize how little time has passed since colonialism was a fact of life. Often times, the majority culture tries to hide the violence and aggression that actually took place within the concept of global colonialism.

Colonialism caused a massive stereotyping and oppression of what are now considered to be Third World countries, causing many minority groups across the globe to be placed at a vision of disadvantage. Colonialism was essentially fueled by a growing sense of racism, where the white majority tended to marginalize and objective by minority groups. According to the research, racism "has historically been both an ally and a product of the colonization process" (Stam & Spence 753). As a modern world continued to advance technologically, racism found its way onto cinema screens all over the world. Racism can be found in film throughout cinematic history. It is often both a combination of highlighting racist stereotypes, but also the absence of those stereotypes altogether and films are trying to hard to be politically correct. The exclusion of the ethnic minority in popular film became a way to exclude them out of the majority culture altogether.

Yet, this was not always the case. Film has also long been an arena to tell stories about the damage of racism and colonialism and how long such elements of the modern world have victimized people of minority cultures and ethnic groups (Stam & Spence 752). In response to racist film portrayals, the "Third World had attempted to write its own history, take control of its own cinematic image, Inc. In its own voice. The colonists wrote the colonized out of history" but the John Russ film provided a way for the colonized to once again speak out and express the nature of oppression and prejudice has held them back for so long (Stam & Spence 757). Even many American films have highlighted how racism has destroyed African-American and Latino-American communities. Film itself is a very popular way of informing the public about minority perspective in a contemporary world that is still plagued by the negative effects of racism. Colonialism has a long history being represented within contemporary art forms. While it was still in place, many authors wrote novels and short stories describing some of the pain and oppression that people all over the world were forced to endure because of European racist attitudes and agreed desire for land and natural resources. Yet, literature had only gone so far. The introduction of film became a powerful new tool to informal audiences of just how much colonialism and racism had changed the face of the Earth, especially for people in distant lands who otherwise could not tell their story in such a telling manner. Film was a way for these people opinion and experiences to be dramatically portrayed in a realistic way, outside of the external bias that European mindset has placed on ethnic minorities for centuries.

The film Ten Canoes was directed by Rolf de Heer and Peter Djigirr 2006. It contained a cast of aboriginal actors reenacting what life would've been like far before European colonialism the hold of Australia and changed it forever. The film actually takes on a little bit of a fictional story in order to truly represent how the indigenous people of Australia were so impacted by the racism seen in colonial times. The story takes place in Arnhem Land before Europeans had traveled to Australia and began to dominate the environment. The cinematography of the film is shot in a way to make the movie look much older than it actually is. It is shot in black and white film, even though it was produced in 2006. Yet, at the same time there are interjections of color scenes in order to further connect the past with a very changed future. The film opens with ten hunters are out looking for eggs and are telling stories in order to pass the time while they hunt. The main leader, known as Minygululu describes a story that goes back even farther than the scene currently being set by the film.

The story itself sounds strange to the modern ear. It is about a man with three wives who follows traditional customs, although they eventually lead to his demise and seem incredibly strange to the modern audience. The story is a great warrior whose second wife is kidnapped. He tries to get her back and so follows cultural customs when he encounters the tribe he thinks has stolen her. He went and murdered a man who thought had stolen his wife. However, the tribe was not the correct one in the warrior then becomes victim of another tribal custom. The tribal laws of the time said that it was acceptable to spear someone who had done wrong to you from a great distance. The great warrior of the story was killed. This left his two other wives without a husband. Yet another man comes in, who is the younger brother, and takes the place of the husband. The stories being told to one of the youngest hunters in the group as a way to help show the responsibilities a man has within the tribe and within the family unit. Yet, it is very strange from the normal family structure that most people are used to today. It highlights the fact that it was acceptable for our original to marry multiple wives, a practice that was deemed as taboo by European invaders. Europeans at the time did not stop to allow cultural things to continue if a conflicted with European religious views. As such, this is a clear example of just how much was taken from the aboriginal people because of the fact that they were judged from an external source, in this case the European invaders. This is an example of this theory that Stam & Spence provide in their work "Colonialism, Racism, and Representation: An Introduction." It is exactly the type of behavior that would've been exploited and used to generate a racist image of a savage aboriginal culture that would justify the violence and aggression used by Europeans during colonialism to subdue indigenous cultures and force… [END OF PREVIEW]

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