Magazine article Metro Magazine

The Tracker

Magazine article Metro Magazine

The Tracker

Article excerpt

Rolf de Heer (w/d), Aust, 2002, 98 minutes, ACTORS: David Gulpilil, Garry Sweet, Damon Gameau, Grant Page. DVD EXTRAS iNCLUDE: Outtakes, Peter Coad Featurette, de Heer Interview with David Stratton.

The trope of the Aboriginal tracker is as unsettling as it is duplicitous. It simultaneously puts forth distinct allegations or pleas whilst it navigates the divide between cultures. The tracker's social movement lays bare a codependent and mutually exploitative relationship. Consequently, trackers not only stand accused, they stand by their respective accusers. Witness the ambiguous role of the tracker in Rabbit-Proof Fence (also played by Gulpilil). It was difficult not to feel ambivalent about a black man tracking down 'half castes' as he finds his way within 'civilized' society. Nonetheless, we were moved by the fact that he let the girls escape their designated fate--if only because one of them demonstrated that she really was Aboriginal by virtue of her own tracking skills. In the same year, Gulpilil went on to star in The Tracker, and his movements, here, help us to better reconcile the experience of a displaced people with that of white settlers.

Gulpilil acts an enigmatic black man with no name, leading three white men who remain nameless. The 'superior' race is simply comprised of the Fanatic (Sweet), the Follower (Gameau) and the Veteran (Page). We are 'somewhere' in the Australian outback in 1922. The tracker leads the way by following the Fanatic's directions into a fatal environment. An Aboriginal man stands accused of murder, and the aim is to bring him to 'natural justice'. We all know, of course, that there isn't a question as to whether the 'bastard savage' is innocent or not--not to mention what will happen once they catch up with him. The color of the man's skin renders him guilty of savagery by default, and the black tracker helps bring white civilization into closer contact with Aboriginal culture. …

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