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Australia 1980
Directed by
John Honey
90 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars


The first feature film from the Tasmanian Film Corporation, Manganinnie was classified G and because one of the two main characters was a child was regarded at the time as a children’s film. The result was that it was largely ignored and has since undeservedly sunk out of sight. 

Manganinnie (Mawuyal Yanthalawny, a 36 year old Darwin primary school teacher with no prior film experience) is one of the last of the Tasmanian aborigines, the indigenous people whose way of life is being rapidly destroyed by white settlers in the 1830s. After her tribe is decimated by a squad of British redcoats she makes off with a young white girl (Anna Ralph) who she finds while the latter is on an excursion with her deeply religious father. Intrigued by the girl's flame-red hair the grieving woman, who is keeper of her tribe's fire, takes her as a companion as she searches for surviving members of her clan.

Whilst dramatically the film is often clumsy and a far cry from the 1971 classic of Australian black-white relations, Walkabout, to which it bears substantial thematic resemblance, Manganinnie is still a very impressive effort. This is largely thanks to Gary Hansen’s marvellous cinematography which, ably abetted by Peter Sculthorpe’s understated score, superbly evokes the sense of a Paradise about to be lost forever.

The film is at its best when it simply allows us to observe its two subjects. Indeed Ken Kelso’s adaptation of the Beth Roberts’ novel keeps dialogue to a minimum and Honey manages to tell the story of the unlikely relationship largely visually, helped out by the occasional voice-over recollections of the child, now grown to adulthood. The result is a telling account of a tragic and truly shameful chapter of Australian history.

DVD Extras: Audio commentary by the director and executive producer, Gil Brealey; Theatrical trailer. 

Available from: Umbrella Entertainment




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