Walking on Country with Spirits, a short documentary film produced by the UNU Media Centre in Tokyo and the UNU Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS) in Yokohama has been awarded a Special Jury Award at the 2011 Green Screen International Film Festival, in West Vancouver, Canada.
Set on the northeastern shores of Australia’s wet tropics, the film traces the life of Marilyn, a Kuku Nyungkal Aboriginal Woman. Marilyn and her family live a traditional lifestyle, following the ways of their ancestors and removed from modern conveniences. Marilyn spends her days walking her ancestral Nyungkal country, where she relates her deep respect for the land.
Marilyn’s growing concern for the rapid changes occurring in the environment around her becomes apparent:
“Today, this place is changing, there is less food. And this season is getting very hot. We are always looking at the seasons, and the weather is changing. We look for indicators: the birds, the flowers and the animal’s food”, she says in the documentary.
Produced in 2010, the seven-minute documentary is filmed entirely in Nyungkal language with English subtitles. It has begun to play an important role in raising awareness about climate change in the local indigenous communities of remote northern Australia. Here, Marilyn’s message on the need for solidarity in protect the natural environment resonates strongly:
“We have an obligation to care for everything. All people must stand together. If we don’t stand together and speak out, everything on our land will disappear. Our land, our people and our sprit will get sick if we don’t all stand together”, she concludes at the end of the film.
Walking on Country with Spirits screened on Saturday 5 November, as part of a line-up of eight short documentaries in the UNU “Stories from a Biodiverse World” series.
The Green Screen Awards featured a diverse range of films from China, the UK, France, Germany, Sweden, Russia, Japan, Australia, Thailand, the USA and Canada, linked together by their common environmental themes. On selecting the films for the festival, Executive Director of Green Screen, Carrie Hunter said:
“I’ve screened so many films these past couple of weeks and have emerged with a sense that there really is hope. Despite the fact we are being told that the damage done to the Earth is irreversible, there are films that show how the effects can be transformed in astonishing ways.”
By sharing her story and her special affinity with the land, in Walking on Country with Spirits, Marilyn demonstrates that even on an individual level, it is possible to deliver powerful messages about environmental change and the need for collective responses.