Arresting Metaphors: Anti-colonial Females in Australian Cinema

Anthony J Lambert


This paper attempts to advance new understandings of female cinematic agency by interrogating its connection to patterns of cultural colonialism in Australian film. The visual presence of female Aboriginality in contemporary Australian film undermines, in subtle and explicit ways, the possibility of a truly secure white identity tied to the Australian environment. It does so through the introduction of the complexities of Aboriginal difference, through the subversion of white cinematic narratives and mythologies, and through physical agency and action. In this way, the anti-colonial impulse in the cinema emerges, in films which effectively 'unearth' the continuing cinematic metaphors of colonial power. The key narrative and visual link between the analyses of films in this paper is the cinematic metaphor of the homestead as the locus of white belonging, values and ownership. Along the way, the motifs of fire and the the lost female child are considered as fundamental components of an anti-colonial cinematic rhetoric. The term 'postcolonial' may be seen to 'cover all the culture affected by the imperial process from the moment of colonisation to the present day' (Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin, 1989: 2) and to challenge or invert the 'ideological acceptance of error as truth' (Spivak, 1988: 109). However, the term 'anti-colonial' is used to specifically emphasise Aboriginal female instrumentality throughout this paper. This distinction enables a clear focus on the Aboriginal refusal of colonial influence in the cinema, which cannot be confused by problematic definitions of postcolonial politics and criticism.


Anti-colonialism; Aboriginal film; Australian film; Identity politics

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