Collaborating with a professional illustrator and a group of children, an Australian Ngarluma filmmaker commemorates in three short episodes his people’s 15,000-year history in petroglyph-rich Murujaga (Burrup Peninsula).
The sequential scenes—redrawn by Campbell from photos of local actors shot on site and digitally colored by the children—are done in a flat, naturalistic style with occasional animations or visual transitions added. In the first, earliest story, Mararra (“first born son”) kills a marndanyingu (kangaroo) in his first hunt. The second, which takes place just after the latest ice age, features another young hunter who bags a thathurgga (sea turtle) to feed his family. Both hunters celebrate their achievements by carving petroglyphs that, in the final episode, leave a modern lad awestruck: “How long have our people been here?” “Ngurrara,” his adult companion replies, “we were always here.” Tapping on the spare lines of text activates both a multivoiced audio and translations for embedded Ngarluma words. A short “making of” video is appended, along with commentary by Mowarin about the precious, poorly protected site and a “rock” drawing board on which readers can scrape their own (savable, sendable) pictures. It’s a little on the rough side, as the plots are rudimentary and the background wind and electronic music are set so loud that it’s sometimes hard to make out the dialogue. Nevertheless, overall this collective project conveys distinct senses of place and of deep roots.
An atmospheric introduction to an ancient culture and some of the oldest and most remote art on Earth. (iPad storybook app. 6-9)