In her second time at the Sundance Film Festival, Rachel Perkins brings to the screen an adaptation of Jimmy Chi’s popular stage musical Bran Nue Dae, which was a national hit in Australia. It’s the summer of 1969, and with his evangelical mother pointing him toward the priesthood, earnest young Willie (Rocky McKenzie) attends a Catholic boarding school in Perth but, protesting its strict rules, runs away to his homeland. With Father Benedictus (Geoffrey Rush) in hot pursuit, he heads back to Broome, acquiring traveling companions along the way.
With songs and dances rooted in traditional Aboriginal performance, blues, rock and roll, Hollywood musicals, and the rituals of the Roman Catholic Mass, Willie sings and dances his way back to his own land and inspires the people around him to find their own truth. The colors of Aboriginal Australia shimmer in this wonderfully exuberant film, giving viewers a joyful romp while simultaneously touching on Aboriginal history and politics in a way that leaves us all wanting to be Aborigines.