The 2022 Adelaide Film Festival will open this October with two world premieres: a doco about pub rock band The Angels, and 'Marungka Tjalatjunu', which its producer calls a “film for our time”.
Marungka Tjalatjunu (Dipped in Black) is one of two world premieres showing at the 2022 Adelaide Film Festival opening gala this October.
The film captures the journey of Yankunytjatjara artist Derik Lynch as he leaves the oppression of white city life in Adelaide and returns to Country, Aputula in the Northern Territory, to perform his own dance on sacred Inma ground.
Growing up as a queer artist in the Central Desert and constantly moving between two cultures, Derik’s art conveys the associated trauma and learned resilience that comes from straddling different worlds.
Multi-talented, he is a singer, dancer, writer, director and entertainer. In this instance, he draws on his dreams and resurfacing memories as he travels home to tell his unique story, performing his Inma in drag.
Derik co-wrote and co-directed the short film with Adelaide-born director Matthew Thorne, whose recent work includes The Sand That Ate The Sea and GAIB. He is also much awarded as a photographer.
The film’s producer, Patrick Graham, says the project was a meeting of two artists, “one white, one black”.
“It’s really a film of our time,” says Patrick of its making during a period of greater public advocacy for Indigenous and LGBTQI+ rights. “I think that’s a real acknowledgement of the collaboration between Matthew and Derik. It’s two artists talking with each other, and creating a film out of both of their experiences.”
Patrick joined the pair on a reconnaissance trip to Aputula in 2019 to “get to know the community” and shoot stills that would form a proof of concept. That the film might prove too radical for the remote community was not an issue.
“Derik is so loved. He’s an initiated man and a leader of the community,” Patrick says. “In terms of dancing in drag, I suppose it might be perceived as radical… I guess I’ve maybe become immune to it. But [the film is] bold in the way that it talks about Derik’s experience and his very deep connection to dealing with trauma.”
The crew was due to return in March 2020 to shoot Marungka Tjalatjunu, but the pandemic shut everything down. The shoot finally happened earlier this year.
The casting was done within Aputula, with actors portraying Derik as both a child and teenager.
“Those memories are all kids and teenagers from communities that we’ve met beforehand – friends and family of Derek or people that we cast,” Patrick explains.
“Using real people as opposed to actors is sometimes hard, because they’re not always attuned to the process of making films. And that presents its problems. But the community in Aputula were amazing. They really embraced the film, Derek and us, and it was incredible to be let into their lives as well. They really shared so much of their culture.”
Shot on 16mm film using a “really small crew”, Patrick says Matthew’s filmmaking process was as much about having restraint in the setup as telling the story.
“In the digital world, you’re constantly shooting and shooting. It’s a very difference process using film – you’re quite sparing with it,” Patrick says.
It was important to everyone that the story was told “authentically and in the right location”, which meant travelling beyond Aputula to shoot in Coober Pedy and Alice Springs, where Derik also grew up.
Patrick says the work is at once stunning, exciting and beautiful – and a testament to the collaboration between its co-writers and co-directors.
Marungka Tjalatjunu will show at the Adelaide Film Festival Opening Night Gala on 19 October 2022, alongside another world premiere, The Angels: Kickin’ Down the Door – a documentary on the rise of Adelaide-founded pub rock band The Angels. Both films have been funded in part by the Adelaide Film Festival.
This year’s festival saw a record number of more than 500 submissions from around the world, from which it has curated a lineup of daring screen stories.
The event is an opportunity for audiences to see films straight from the Cannes, Sundance, Berlin and Toronto film festivals, as well as the world premieres of the next wave of Australian film.
The full program will be launched in early September.