Simple story explores complex themes

Rhae-Kye Waites in Emu Runner (Screen Australia)

Emu Runner is an Australian film that explores the effect of a mother’s death on an Aboriginal family in outback Australia. It is the first feature by writer-director Imogen Thomas. Source: ACOFB.

The film was made in close collaboration with the Indigenous community of Brewarrina in outback New South Wales, located some 800km northwest of Sydney.

It is set in the traditional land of the Ngemba, Murrawarri, Ualari, Weilwan, and Baranbinja peoples.

The film shows an Indigenous, isolated community living on the banks of a town river. In that place, a spirited nine-year old girl, Gem (Rhea-Kye Waites), grieves for her mother’s after her sudden death and forms a bond with a wild emu, the totem bird of her ancestors.

Stressed, and grieving strongly, Gem skips school to form a secret friendship with the emu. She steals food to feed it, and uses the emu to reconnect spiritually with her mother. At home, her father Jay Jay (Wayne Blair) struggles to cope with his daughter’s grief while trying at the same time to deal with his own sadness. Gem’s behaviour brings both the police and a social worker to the family door, and Jay Jay resolves to preserve his wife’s memory by doing all he can to keep his family together.

Heidi (Georgia Blizzard) is the naive social worker whose unsympathetic treatment of Gem’s predicament, conveyed by blunt scripting, puts the family under threat.

The film is significant at multiple levels. Steeped in realism, it dramatically communicates the importance and significance of country for a family in crisis. It has been directed in a style that offers close introspection on the nature of family and community, and it strongly emphasises the importance of community solidarity.

It is a simply made film that impactfully tells the viewer not to be “quick to judge”. Its cinematography is outstanding, and the film has stand-out acting by Rhea-Kye Waites.

Reviewed by Peter W. Sheehan, ACOFB

Emu Runner: Starring Rhae-Kye Waites, Wayne Blair, Georgia Blizzard, Mary Waites, Maurial Spearim, Lindsay Waites and Letisha Boney. Directed by Imogen Thomas. Rated PG (Mild themes and coarse language). 95 min.

FULL REVIEW

Emu Runner (ACOFB)

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