Ten Canoes is a deep, flowing tale, elegiac in its pacing, beautifully shot. The narrator begins with “A long time ago, in a place far, far away…”, then cracks into laughter, saying it’s not “your story, but my story…”, a different, but just as good tale handed down from his ancestors.
The story flows with deliberate patience, different branches of the story “like the trees” finding their own pace. There’s no moral per se, but there is a sense of deep wisdom as the story unfolds.
The narration was in English, but the dialogue was entirely in the native language(s) of the Aboriginal actors. There is a strong verisimilitude in the production, documentary in its rawness, the naked bodies of the actors taken for granted as being as natural as the landscapes. After a while, certain words and phrases of the aboriginal language could be discerned, and the story flowed richly without the need for subtitles. Surprisingly, the lack of subtitles that I found to be a challenging and exciting part of the experience was infact an accident of print shipments. Regardless of this accident of print management, the film remained entirely comprehensible, forcing the viewer to pay careful attention to extratextual gestures and physical cues, helped in turn by the laconic, omniscient narration that runs throughout.
A remarkable film, made all the more enjoyable by this happy subtitling accident at the screening.