Fred Schepisi (director)
19 August 2019 (released)
23 August 2019
Based on true events and featuring Aboriginal actor Tom Lewis the title role, THE CHANT OF JIMMIE BLACKSMITH is one of the most acclaimed films in the history of Australian cinema. This tension-fulled drama from 1978 takes an unflinching look at the country’s institutionalized racism and colonialism on its indigenious peoples – leading to one of the most harrowing crimes… followed by one of the biggest manhunts in turn of the century Oz.
It’s the year 1900 and Australia is still relatively unpopulated with white immigrants scattered about, though no opportunity is missed to humiliate and systematically eradicate the Aboriginals. Young Jimmie Blacksmith (Tommy Lewis) fares only slightly better: half white and half native, he was taken under the wing of Reverend Neville (Jack Thompson) and his wife Martha who taught him to read and write from a young age. For Jimmie, this means that while he finds odd jobs working for various farmers on a more regular basis, the prejudice and degrading behaviour of the settlers towards him does not decrease - on the contrary. Always eager to ‘fit in’ he adapts the crude colloquialism of the white (often Irish) settlers. For example, when Jimmie tries to impress some lads by using the word ‘f******’ he is told off immediately when one of the guys replies, “That’s a word the glorious English created for what they do to their choirboys!”
The situation is getting worse when he marries white woman Gilda Marshall (Angela Punch) because she is pregnant with his baby - at least that's what he assumes. But when the child is born (white skin) it turns out that the dark-skinned Jimmie cannot possibly be the father. Despite the on-going mockery of the settlers, he remains loyal to his wife. When current employer Mr. Newby (Don Crosby), who owes Jimmie a big chunk of salary for completed fence-work, shrugs him off yet again an increasingly disgruntled Jimmie sends Gilda to the Newbys farm to ask for credit. That way he hopes to buy food for his small family. Instead, Miss Graf (Elizabeth Alexander), a teacher and friend of the Newbys, has a proposition for Gilda: in order to secure a better future for her baby and free herself of the ‘stigma’ caused by her marriage to half-caste Jimmie, she should train to become a teacher herself and move to another city. Miss Graf would take care of everything. When Jimmie finds out what Miss Graf suggested, he goes to the farm to confront Miss Graf and Mrs. Newby (Ruth Cracknell).
Meanwhile, Mr. Newby and the rest of the male household are elsewhere looking after cattle. Jimmie is accompanied by his full-caste brother Mort (Freddy Reynolds) and his uncle Tabidgi (Steve Dodd). During their dispute with Mrs. Newby and Miss Graf, Jimmie finally runs out of patience… culminating in a bloody massacre during which even the children of the household lose their lives. But this is only the beginning of the bloody revenge that Jimmie and Mort hold in store against their white oppressors...
The character of Jimmie Blacksmith is based on young Aboriginal Jimmy Governor, a case that shocked the nation. With his film, director Fred Schepisi addresses not only one of the darkest chapters in the history of Australia, but also the arrogance and brutality of the white immigrants towards the Aborigines. Tommy Lewis (who wasn’t even an actor when he landed the part) is perfect casting, and the remaining cast are equally convincing.
THE CHANT OF JIMMIE BLACKSMITH has just been released in Dual Format edition, in addition the first 2000 copies come with a limited edition slipcase. Bonus material consists of interviews, audio commentaries, info booklet as well as the 120 minute Australian version and the shorter international version.