Abstract

The 2006 Australian film Ten Canoes, directed by Rolf de Heer and Peter Djigirr, opens with a slow aerial shot over the Arafura swamp’s watery landscape, underscored by native bird calls, then the sound of rain, followed again by birds. After one full minute, the unnamed narrator’s voice joins the bird sounds when he says, ‘Once upon a time, in a land far, far away… [Laughs] // No, not like that, I’m only joking’. These opening words allude to a Western tradition of orality, the fairytale, as well as to the popular culture phenomenon Star Wars, which begins with the words, ‘A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away’.1 The inherent ambiguity of this laugh may lead viewers to wonder whether the narrator is laughing with or at us, or perhaps both.

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