Publication Details

Clothier, K. & Dudek, D. L. 2012, 'Opening the body: reading Ten Canoes with critical intimacy', Kunapipi Journal of Postcolonial Writing & Culture (2009), vol. XXXI, no. 2, pp. 82-93.

Additional Publication Information

Note: Although officially published in vol.30 in 2009 - the articles in the this volume were NOT available until 2012. Must remain as 2009 publication for citation & referencing details. http://postcolonial.net/postcolonialresources/?x=K;c=1


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 fairy tale, 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 ' . The inherent ambiguity of this laugh may lead viewers to wonder whether the narrator es laughing with or at us, or perhaps both. Critics' analyses of this opening have IdentIfied the narrator's laugh as preparation 'for a very different kind of story' (Henderson 54) and as ironic and transformative (Crosbie 144), a laugh that shifts the narrative away from a familiar story to a personal one.

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