Benny and the Dreamers is a documentary about the Pintubi people’s initial contact with the European society. The entry of Europeans led to a massive disorientation of the existing social and economic lives. The White settlers dispossessed the indigenous population land and forced them into missions.
A minority group of the Pintupi people from modern-day west Central Australia can piece together the initial contact with the White man, the impression of the White man’s world, and their reactions and expectations of what the White man’s world would deliver. Benny and the Dreamers points out to the initial versions of the contact with Europeans and their way of life, which changed the traditional way of life completely. Evidently, from the film, the change is a fascinating experience while some term it as a harrowing experience. For the Aboriginal people, contact with the White man led to the gradual erosion of a nomadic way of life, which they practiced for over 40,000 years (“Benny and the Dreamers: Creation | NFSA”). Tjapaltjarri and Ngamurarri vent their dissatisfaction in Western religion by quitting the missionary to return to their ancestral land, culture, and religion. The elders explain the significance of dreaming and creation.
Throughout the film, Benny and other Pintupi elders tell their stories using a rare archival footage, which features stories before and after contact with the White man. As stories unfold, one begins to associate the different experiences and reactions to a new way of life, the nightmare of assimilation to the European culture, the killing alcohol fields, and eventually the rejection of European life and the return of Aboriginal land (“Benny And The Dreamers: Creation | NFSA”). The film captures personal experiences such as attraction, the introduction of new systems and the disruption of social economic structures. One interesting aspect in the film is the gradual realization by the Pintubi group that their ancestral land now belonged to many groups.
The film, through Benny and Mick, explains the importance of dreaming. The two characters tell of the dreaming where their ancestral land and its features came into existence using traditional language, subtitles, and songs. The elders explain the importance of their dreaming and the relationship of dreaming to the indigenous people. Benny and Mick feel that they would be lost had the dreaming ceased. They believe that dreaming is still the reason for their existence in a contemporary world (“Benny and the Dreamers [Electronic Resource] – Version Details”). A common feature of oral tradition appears in the way one elder explains his worldview while the other one supports their notion.
The film uses dreaming characters Ngamurarri and Tjapajarri to create the real features in the background. The two characters explain different sceneries and landscapes when the dreaming characters travel through the country. They describe scenery filled with hills rocks and small pools of water in creek beds. Specific emphasis is placed on water in the wilderness. This signifies the ability of the indigenous group to survive in severe conditions presented in the desert environment.
The film features Ngamurarri and Tjapaljarri talking about dreaming characters that emerge in the ancient ceremonies in the dreaming. They describe their existence as an emergence from the smoke with awe of nature. The education system is passed on from generation to generation. Mainly involving songs, stories, ceremonies, and connecting travel routes used by previous generations. Learning mainly happens through Tingarri cycles (“Benny and the Dreamers [Electronic Resource] – Version Details”). The ancient inhabitants used desert routes that emerge as part of the natural phenomenon, songs, stories, and law, which become the foundations of Pintupi life.
There emerges a natural connection between dreaming and the existing law in Pintupi society. The dominant law is the sacred law also called the old people’s law, which prescribes the way of life for the members. These laws have been inherited from ancestral generations. Tjukurpa, also known as Anunga law is used predominantly in the film (“Benny and the Dreamers [Electronic Resource] – Version Details”). The Anunga describes the combination on newly coined terms such as dreaming and law, which further complicates the description of the variety of indigenous concepts existing within the non-indigenous environment.
The film Benny and the Dreamers presents a combination of new world developments and ancient world designs. The film utilizes black and white footage incorporated in computer-generated art to create a connection of the past and present as it occurs in dreaming. The background of silhouetted characters with a backdrop of eerie music suggests a contemporary world. The previous ceremonial journey to create the land occurs in black and white features flanked by narratives and interviews of contemporary indigenous communities. This film finds its place in ancient and modern societies that explain modern generation in ancient settings.
The film illustrates the significance of language, art, and songs in defining the society and explaining the various phenomenon in the film. The relationship between societies and countries occurs in art and songs. The film opens up in traditional songs as the two characters converse in the ancient language. The characters use this scene to express their views in their own best way; Benny gives a narrative, while Mick Ngamurarri paints red circular designs. This film presents the vivid life of the Aboriginal and maintains an indigenous appearance that fits in new world developments.
“Benny and the Dreamers [Electronic Resource] – Version Details”. Trove, 2012, https://trove.nla.gov.au/work/10441369?q&versionId=185465161. Accessed 15 Dec 2018.
“Benny and the Dreamers: Creation | NFSA”. Nfsa.Gov.Au, https://www.nfsa.gov.au/collection/curated/benny-and-dreamers-creation. Accessed 15 Dec 2018.