In the remote Aboriginal community of Toomelah, 10 year old Daniel (Daniel Connors) yearns to be a gangster, like the male role models in his life, Linden (Christopher Edwards), who leads the main gang in town. Daniel skips school and has a fight with another boy over Tanitia (Danieka Connors) but it's when Bruce (Dean Daley-Jones) returns from a stint in jail that Linden gets Daniel to spy on him - which results in a dramatic confrontation and adds to the various domestic issues that beset the young Daniel as he searches for his place in the small community.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Echoing themes laid out by Warwick Thornton's Samson and Delilah (2009), Toomelah is an unflinching portrait of an Aboriginal boy's options in a small remote community. Ivan Sen has made the film almost like a documentary, although with well judged dramatic interventions. Yet it is a fragile work, in the sense that it lacks bombast and editorialising. If anything, the film almost recoils from the incursion of observation, punctuated by silent, internalised emotions.
Daniel Connors is a natural screen performer, but he doesn't yet know it, which adds a lustre of innocence to his work. He is both knowing and naïve, brave yet childlike, and as taken with macho bravado as any boy. When this profoundly male dominated culture shows its uglier side, Daniel is confronted by the reality, as distinct from the video games he and his friends play.
The characters are all tangibly real; there is no airbrushing the blemishes, either physical or personal; the incessantly crude language of the community is not restricted to the adults and role models are few and far between. The dysfunction is palpable.
Selected for Un Certain Regard at Cannes 2011, the film is clearly the result of a single, cohesive vision which Sen completes by shooting the film himself and composing the score. It's thus a deeply personal work, especially as it is reminiscent of his childhood community.
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IVAN SEN INTERVIEW
CAST: Daniel Connors, Danieka Connors, Christopher Edwards, Dean Daley-Jones
PRODUCER: David Jowsey
DIRECTOR: Ivan Sen
SCRIPT: Ivan Sen
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Ivan Sen
EDITOR: Ivan Sen
MUSIC: Ivan Sen
RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Transmission
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 24, 2011