Film is an inherently collaborative art form produced by the skills and decisions of (among others) the director, co-director, producers, photographer and cast. According to the norms both of the commercial narrative film industry and ethnographic practice, a vertical hierarchy privileges the authority, control and decision-making of the director. Alternatively, collaboration can operate as a collective process that distributes authority, control and decision-making horizontally at various stages of the film’s production process. The latter – a process distributing decision making among Indigenous and non-Indigenous collaborators – governed the production of Ten Canoes (2006).
Ten Canoes credits collaborators rather than a sole director; it is billed as “a film by Rolf de Heer and the People of Ramingining”. The film was made by professional non-Indigenous filmmakers working with a “tradition-oriented” Aboriginal community in a remote area of the Northern Territory of Australia.  The project’s inception lay in an invitation from a member of the community to the director to visit their country and discuss a film project intended to address multiple audiences. The film is a product of a complex web of “creators” participating in a collaborative community that distributed control of decision-making. The way that the collaborative community ordered the production of Ten Canoes aimed to “decolonise”  relationships among Indigenous and non-Indigenous collaborators.
Ten Canoes demonstrates the potential of “collaborative communities … to construct new meanings … through interaction with others” (Schrage 42). It is a collaborative cultural production “embedded” in a “broader effort of collective self-production always associated with the … ontological system of kin- and land-based ritual knowledge” that “run contrary to Western notions of the social relations of aesthetic production that emphasize the creative ‘self-expression’ of individuals who are assigned responsibility as authors” (Ginsburg 372). The production history of the film reveals the efforts of the collaborators to shape the film’s reception as a vehicle of inter-cultural dialogue, a goal limited by aspects of its exhibition and distribution.
What model of collaboration does the production of Ten Canoes exemplify? The official synopsis in the Press Kit states: “The film was developed and cast in collaboration with the Indigenous community it portrays”. At first glance, this general description of the collaborative process seems to resemble that of several preceding features, including Walkabout (Nicholas Roeg, 1971) and Where the Green Ants Dream (Werner Herzog, 1984).  As in the production of those works, a non-Indigenous art-film director (de Heer) embedded himself in an Aboriginal community who were members of the cast. Like those other directors, de Heer did not speak the language of the community, and depended upon an interpreter as an intermediary.
However, there are striking differences between the production of Ten Canoes and those earlier projects that enabled the directors to maintain their identities as the films’ auteurs – i.e., the sole creators who controlled the processes that shaped the vision and meanings for spectators through their signature stylistic devices and themes. The relationship of de Heer’s role as producer with his collaborators (such as the Co-Producer Peter Djigirr) entailed significant areas of overlapping control over decision-making. When describing the co-director’s role, the Ten Canoes Press Kit makes clear that Djigirr shared decision-making, and his role was more than that of an interpreter or intermediary in community consultations (as routinely occurs in ethnographic filmmaking). Djigirr “was involved extensively in casting, locations and logistics, and was a key liaison between the Yolgnu community and Balanda [non-Indigenous] crew”.
The relationship between de Heer and Djigirr as co-directors provides an important example of the distribution of authority among members of the collaborative community. As a producer, de Heer did wield control (customary to this role) in the film’s funding, distribution and marketing in order to meet his obligation to investors by ensuring it would be of interest to the non-Indigenous audiences upon whom its commercial success depended. De Heer cautions, however, this should not be taken as an indication that his collaborators’ decisions and goals were subordinated to his; instead, it is an example of what de Heer describes as the “mix between commercial imperative and cultural imperative” (Walters).  Djigirr explains that he and other members of the community also intended to reach a non-Indigenous audience. For him, the film was a means to represent the maintenance of Yolgnu law not only to themselves but also to others. In his words (as included in the Press Kit), the purpose of the film was to show how they used to sit a long time ago, them laws. So white men can see, we can see, anyone can see, we got that law. If we can’t do this movie, all them Balanda put us down, but you people just come to lift us up, to teach them, because we don’t want to lose our culture, you know. We gonna try and lift up that law for us with this movie, so they can recognise, “Ah, these people still got that law for them, culture, all that”. It’s really important this movie get done from the start to the end. We gonna show this film, and then they can recognise, all them white mens … that’s nicer. (Press Kit)
Djigirr shared the goal of de Heer to reach a non-Indigenous audience, although not for financial reasons; instead, for him the film was an opportunity for the community’s self-representation to secure knowledge of, and respect for, their law; to “teach” a non-Indigenous audience about the continuous existence of Yolgnu law. By following protocols  and consulting with his collaborators, de Heer developed a project that could potentially fulfil the goals of its multiple authors: himself and the people of Ramingining.
From its inception, Ten Canoes involved negotiation with members of the community that required de Heer to relinquish the customary degree of directorial control over many aspects of the film, including its storyline. The collaboration began with an invitation from a respected community member, David Gilpulil, to work together. In interviews, de Heer states that Gulpilil invited him to meet with his family in Ramingining, to see their traditional lands, and to discuss a project set in their country, north eastern Arnhem Land. De Heer first visited Ramingining in late 2000. They worked together on The Tracker in 2002. In 2003, they began meeting with a number of elders and men of influence in the community to discuss ideas for a film. 
De Heer describes his roles as director and co-producer in the collaboration as instrumental rather than hierarchical: “I went up there and started discussing it with David and the others … It was never a case of imposing anything. I was the means by which they could make this film, by which they would tell this story” (Walters). De Heer’s skill as a film director and his ability as a producer to secure funding made him “the means” by which the community could create a work to revive some of their cultural practices and engage in self-representation.
The collaboration depended upon reaching and maintaining a “consensus” among members of the community so “there was general support for the film” (Walters). De Heer understood Yolgnu society “works very much on consensus and meetings, long meetings that can go on forever until it’s completely thrashed out” (Walters). That consensus, as de Heer admits, was not unanimous.  Instead, on occasion, some members of the community voiced their disagreement with the consensus view and proposed alternatives; de Heer discusses one example involving “a very influential member of the community, who just two days before was very happy with the film being made … suddenly he started to talk against it. He didn’t think that they should make this film in this way because it dwelled too much on the past and it risked – this is very much me paraphrasing – giving the impression that they were still just savages and they should be looking to the future. I thought it was very interesting and it was a very good point, but in the end everybody disagreed” (Walters). In this instance, de Heer indicates that he could appreciate an alternative point of view about the story, its temporal setting and characters, but he accepted the general consensus reached by his collaborators. De Heer understood the decision to reject objections about making a film representing ‘old times’ as an expression of the majority of the community’s sense of ownership of the project: “in the end the objections were resoundingly defeated because it was like, ‘This is actually us looking to our future by preserving the past and by getting paid, but not sit-down money. We have to work for it. It’s real and it’s ours’” (Walters).
De Heer was not able to exercise his usual degree of authority over subject matter and casting. This, to a degree, shaped his role as a collaborator – particularly his responsibility to remove obstructions to his collaborators’ decisions. For example, he set the film in “old times”, in accordance with a decision that the community reached by consensus. Their decisions about the story and its temporal setting changed; initially they proposed a story that would end with the massacre of the Yolngu characters by white invaders. This would have been a very different film; to some extent, it would have resembled other Australian features about Aboriginal people that tend to focus on colonial violence and subjugation, including de Heer’s own The Tracker. Why did those collaborating on Ten Canoes decide to focus on a pre-contact story about goose-egg hunting, involving ten characters? The answer is beyond the scope of this essay’s research.
What is clear is that the publicity focussed heavily on the pre-contact nature of the story, highlighting its difference from other Australian Indigenous feature films, especially the so-called reconciliation cycle of 2002 – Australian Rules, Beneath Clouds, Black and White, Rabbit-Proof Fence and The Tracker. In contrast to these films, de Heer has said that he wanted to make a “guilt-free film”: “In its story and subject matter there’s nothing that allows [non-Indigenous viewers] to connect it with white guilt” (Schembri).
The film’s frame narrative, photographed in black and white, extrapolates from a still photograph, taken by anthropologist Donald Thomson in the 1930s, of a goose-egg hunt involving ten men from the community.  De Heer said that, when he saw the photograph, he appreciated the “profoundly cinematic” potential of this single image: “It spoke of a world of long ago, where things were different, life as different to anything that would be imagined by almost any Balanda (white person) anywhere” (Press Kit).
De Heer identified three main problems he had to overcome in order to implement his collaborators’ recommendations that the film represent the practices and social relationships involved in a goose-egg hunt. First, he had to overcome problems caused by on location shooting. Yolngu participants saw the project as an opportunity to revive the practice of goose-egg hunting, which had been discontinued for many years. However, its representation involved both expense and practical difficulties of shooting on location in some of the densest areas of the Arafura swamp, country known for its extreme physical conditions. Second, there was a problem in making the subject dramatic. The decision to make goose-egg hunting the main event posed challenges in terms of satisfying the expectations of a mainstream non-Indigenous audience for a dramatic plot. He described it as a problem of meeting two audiences’ expectations: “How could I satisfy the Yolngu taste and cultural requirements while at the same time make something that Western audiences would want to see?” (Press Kit). Third, there was a problem of meeting the Yolngu requirement that this story about “old times” be true to their cultural history, meaning respecting not only specific laws regarding kinship, but also their understanding of documentary evidence about their ancestors. This problem was exacerbated by the fact that de Heer had been contracted to make a colour film, while the Yolgnu now associate the cultural history represented in and through Thomson’s photographs with monochromatic black and white photography. 
These problems were overcome, however, by de Heer’s screenplay including a frame narrative (representing the Yolgnu ancestors hunting for goose-eggs), and an inset narrative representing a story told by one of the hunters, a story of conflict set in an earlier time. This use of two different temporal settings enabled him to satisfy his collaborators’ requirement that the time of their ancestors – the temporal setting of the narrative about the goose-egg hunt – be represented as a time without conflict. De Heer constructed the frame narrative to locate all conflict within the story told by a character to his younger brother, Dayindi. This freed de Heer to use the inset narrative to satisfy the expectations of a non-Indigenous commercial audience for a plot with dramatic incidents, driven by conflict and its resolution. Ten Canoes is framed also with a narrator’s voice-over that initially guides a spectator into the work; subsequently, it alternates between an unspecified historical time (depicted in black-and-white with static framing to mimic still photography) and the earlier time of the inset story (depicted in a swirl of colour and movement). To ensure that the story was a faithful representation of cultural history, kinship rules were followed in casting the goose-egg hunting narrative; those who perform the roles of the men in Thomson’s photograph are as closely related to them as possible. The film was cast in a Yolngu way, maintaining appropriate kin relations. De Heer explains: The ten men in Thomson’s canoes photo have, over the years, been individually identified, and many in Ramingining are related in some way to at least one of them. Those with the strongest claims to heritage chose themselves to play their ancestor, as they saw it, and that was the end of that. (Press Kit)
This was another instance when the customary authority of a director and producer was subordinated to the consensus of his collaborators for whom kinship rules were more important than “directorial” priorities, such as acting experience.
De Heer has noted that the usual tight management of a production schedule was, in this case, not practicable. Decisions about organising daily lives sometimes affected the filming schedule. De Heer learned that his customary practice of “filming is very schedule-driven whereas the community is not” (Walters). Negotiating decisions about the film’s production schedule worked in tandem with other decisions made by the community, such as the film’s use of storytelling. De Heer acknowledges:
there were some fortuitous fits, like they wanted storytelling to be in it. Now, if there’s a storyteller, we can bridge gaps and so, if we are going to be shooting this sequence on that day and nobody turns up till lunchtime – you know, somebody died overnight and they’ve all gone over to the funeral or something – then I could send the cinematographer into the swamp and say, “Bring me back two great shots, I don’t care what they are”. And then, let’s say they all suddenly turn up at lunchtime, then we would shoot only the second half of that sequence scheduled for that day and put one of those great shots in where the first half is meant to be and bridge it with the storyteller” (Walters).
The community’s decision to include storytelling – an aesthetic decision made before production began – enabled De Heer to accommodate other decisions made all throughout filming. As a result, their collaboration was a negotiated process involving incremental decision-making; things were not agreed upon only at one point in time, but instead continued to be made.
Ten Canoes was created for multiple audiences whose different knowledge and purposes were considered by the collaborators. This informed decisions about the language. Ten Canoes is the first feature film to be made in an Aboriginal language, predominantly in Ganalbingu but also with some Mandalpingu. The film functions on one level as an artefact – a record of these languages – thus supporting the Yolgnu’s aims of self-representation and cultural maintenance. On a narrative level, the use of Aboriginal languages in the film has several other important effects. First, it determines the subject-positions occupied by different audiences, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, in relation to the film (and especially to its subsequent DVD release, which contains all the language options).
Ten Canoes positions a Yolngu spectator as a member of its primary intended audience; this spectator has a clearly identified relationship to, and understanding of, the film’s dialogue, story and content. De Heer: “Yolngu storytelling is quite different to the way we tell stories – it’s a function of their cosmology which is a different cosmology. I mean, they literally see the universe as a different place than we do and that’s reflected in their language” (Walters). A non-Indigenous spectator who may or may not be aware of Yolgnu storytelling conventions occupies a subordinate position; he or she is distanced to a degree from the film by its language, and requires guidance to comprehend its narratives. Indeed, the joke of the narrator, spoken in English at the beginning, is at the expense of the non-Indigenous audience; he speaks the familiar words of a Western narrative “once upon a time” before explaining that instead he will tell a kind of story using different norms: “Once upon a time in a land far, far away … [laughter] … I’m only joking!” The narrator then encourages this non-Indigenous spectator by advising: “It’s a good story, not like your story but a good story all the same.”
It is clearly not a story belonging to, or necessarily easily understood by, a non-Indigenous spectator; s/he must rely on both sub-titles and voice-over narration to explain crucial scenes and storytelling conventions throughout – from the opening and closing sequences of the landscape, viewed in long shots and close-ups, to the various transitions between the two narratives. Certainly, as Jamie Leonarder suggests, “the colour coding helps … navigate this difficult temporal terrain”, because a non-Indigenous audience is familiar with transitions from monochromatic to colour photography as a filmic device that signals a transition to an alternative place or time associated with the Western convention of “dream visions”.  The subject-positions of both audiences (Indigenous and non-Indigenous) are not rigorously exclusive and, on occasion, merge; for example, at the beginning, when the narrator instructs spectators to recognise: “It’s a good story but you got to listen ey. Maybe you’re like Dayindi, maybe the story will teach you how to live proper way”. His comparison of spectators to Dayindi, the young hunter who needs to be instructed about law and kinship rules by his elder brother in the frame narrative, identifies both Indigenous and non-Indigenous spectators as those who can potentially learn by listening to the film. Language and narration directly impress upon spectators the goal of the collaborators to teach others; in Djigirr’s words, “So white men can see, we can see, anyone can see, we got that law”.
Ten Canoes’ function as a means of maintaining and representing Yolgnu law and culture to Indigenous and non-Indigenous spectators was a primary ordering principle that governed the relationship of de Heer and his collaborators during the film’s production. De Heer states:
My self-imposed task was to try and get them what they were after, which was a film that worked both for them and for cinema audiences around the world. They wanted to be able to show it to their kids and say, “This is where you came from, this is who you are, this is where we all came from.” But at the same time they very much wanted to show their culture to the rest of the world and to have it recognised and appreciated. And they wanted a movie rather than a documentary because that’s what they were used to from David [Gulpilil]. (Walters)
De Heer, however, became the dominant figure in the film festival and premiere screening events, the key spokesperson – partly because members of the cast who accompanied him at these events do not speak English as a first language, but also because of his status as an auteur. This spokesperson role is reinforced in The Balanda and the Bark Canoes (2006), a documentary that de Heer narrates about the making of the film and his experience of the project. As Sacha Molitorisz notes: “If Ten Canoes is a blackfella film, with a story that grew out of the imaginations and lives of its Aboriginal cast, The Balanda and the Bark Canoes is its whitefella sibling. It’s a rational, dispassionate account of de Heer’s exceedingly ambitious undertaking”.
Subsequently, de Heer’s relationship to the collaborative community extended beyond the Ten Canoes project into a number of ancillary projects. Such projects based on mentoring and funding arising from Ten Canoes provided new, independent opportunities for Yolgnu self-representation and cultural maintenance. “Eleven Canoes”, for example, was an education program for young members of the community to develop their skills in video recording and digital media production of short documentaries.  The broadband website “Twelve Canoes” is a digital media project addressed, like the film, to multiple audiences, including a non-Indigenous audience. “Twelve Canoes” represents the art, stories and country of the Yolgnu who live near the Arafura swamp in north eastern Arnhem Land. It is an important educational resource and means of cultural maintenance. As Margaret Cassidy has explained, “Twelve Canoes” presents:
the works and stories of key community members. By way of kinship they are the owners and managers of stories and history and are bestowed with the responsibility for telling them. While they are the keepers for the collective, their individuality will present aspects of their present and everyday lives in their hometown of Ramingining. In this way, the Yolgnu community’s use of new media is very traditional in terms of the level of control they retain as a collective group over the representation of their life. Individuals are not the focus of this approach, nor are individuals encouraged to have their own voices and views.
De Heer comments that “Twelve [Canoes]” came about “because there was so much that they wanted to put into the film – they wanted everything about themselves, their art, their current way of life” (Walters). The Yolgnu have always told and preserved their stories through a continuous oral tradition governed by their law. Ancillary projects such as “Eleven Canoes” and “Twelve Canoes” have enabled the Yolgnu of Ramingining to use new media to serve this purpose and to communicate with multiple audiences. Transfer of expertise in the use of film and other media to the community of Ramingining is one outcome of the collaboration that de Heer considers important so they could “tell their own stories, not for me to tell them for them” (Walters). Certainly, the media of the “Twelve Canoes” website foster collective self-production and enable the Ramingining community to engage in new ways of constituting group identity that are both Indigenous and intercultural.
De Heer, working with the Ramingining community after 2003, followed protocols endorsed by Indigenous groups, Government and funding bodies, and cultural institutions. He shared decision-making, respected Yolgnu law (such as kinship rules) when casting Ten Canoes, and worked with the consensus reached by his collaborators. The collaborators worked together as a “community-author” with a shared understanding of its production processes and ownership of the story told. The resulting film Ten Canoes exemplifies a kind of cultural production, in Faye Ginsburg’s terms, “embedded” in a “broader effort of collective self-production” (1994: 372).
The high degree of control and maintenance of cultural traditions that the Yolgnu can exercise through new media in the “Twelve Canoes” website differs starkly from their relationship to Ten Canoes during its exhibition and distribution stages. As other papers in this dossier suggest, it is perhaps for this reason that Indigenous communities are now making works that are primarily and, in some instances, solely for their communities’ use, marking a significant shift away from the goal of “educating” non-Indigenous audiences toward the goal of using film as a tool for maintaining culture and law. As the successful ancillary projects of this film demonstrate, Indigenous communities are taking up new digital technologies as tools of inter-generational communication and inter-community exchange in new forms of narrowcasting. This does not mean that communities are no longer collaborating with non-Indigenous filmmakers in collaborative communities of creative endeavour, but rather that the communities are carefully considering questions of audience.
I thank Therese Davis for her contribution to my ideas for this article that arose out of our work on an ARC Discovery Project about Indigenous and non-Indigenous collaboration in Australian film and literature.
“Beyond Ten Canoes.” Creative Spirits. <http://www.creativespirits.info/resources/movies/tencanoes.html >
Bostock, L. The Greater Perspective: Protocol and Guidelines for the Production of Film and Television on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities. 1990; 2nd ed. Sydney: Special Broadcasting Service, 1997.
Cassidy, Margaret, “Few Aboriginal Digital Citizens 40 years After Referendum.” Eureka Street.com.au 17.10 (June 2007). <http://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=2924>
Davis, Therese. “Remembering our Ancestors: Cross-Cultural Collaboration and the Mediation of Aboriginal Culture and History in Ten Canoes (Rolf de Heer, 2006).” Studies in Australasian Cinema 1.1 (2007): 5-14.Elder, Sarah. “Collaborative Filmmaking: An Open Space for Making Meaning, A Moral Ground for Ethnographic Film.” Visual Anthropology Review 11:2 (1995): 94-101.
Ginsburg, Faye. “Embedded Aesthetics: Creating a Discursive Space for Indigenous Media.”Cultural Anthropology 9.3 (1994): 365-82.
de Heer, Rolf and the People of Ramingining. Ten Canoes. Film Finance Corporation, South Australia, 2006.
Hurley, Andrew W. “Whose Dreaming? Intercultural Appropriation, Representations of Aboriginality, and the Process of Film-making in Werner Herzog’s Where the Green Ants Dream (1984).” Studies in Australasian Cinema 1.2 (2007): 175-90.
Janke, Terri. Issues Paper: Towards a Protocol for Filmmakers with Indigenous Content and Communities. Woolloomooloo: Australian Film Commission, 2003.
Langton, Marcia. ‘Well I Heard it on the Radio and I Saw it on the Television…’ An Essay for the Australian Film Commission on the Politics and Aesthetics of Filmmaking by and about Aboriginal People and Things. North Sydney: Australian Film Commission, 1993.
Leonarder, Jamie. “An Elaborate Story, Well Told.” <http://www.sbs.com.au/films/movie/1907/TenCanoes/type/review/id/18823>
Little-Peters, Frances. “On the Impossibility of Pleasing Everyone: The Legitimate role of White Filmmakers Making Black Films.” Art Monthly Australia 149 (May 2002): 5-9.
Molitorisz, Sacha. “The Balanda and the Bark Canoe”, Sydney Morning Herald, September 27, 2006 <http:// HYPERLINK “http://www.smh.com.au/news/film-reviews/the-balanda-and-the-bark-canoes/2006/09/27/1159337217031.html” www.smh.com.au/news/film-reviews/the-balanda-and-the-bark-canoes/2006/09/27/1159337217031.html> accessed 15 April 2011.
Schembri, Jim. “De Heer’s Shame Revealed” The Age, July 7, 2006.
<http:// HYPERLINK “http://www.theage.com.au/news/film/de-heers-shame-revealed/2006/07/06/1151779058082.html” www.theage.com.au/news/film/de-heers-shame-revealed/2006/07/06/1151779058082.html> accessed 19/4/2011.
Schrage, Michael. No More Teams! Mastering the Dynamics of Creative Collaboration. New York: Doubleday, 1995.
Smith, Linda Tuhiwahi. Decolonising Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples.New York and London: Zed Books, 1999.
“Ten Canoes Press Kit.”<http://svc068.wic021v.server-web.com/tencanoes/info.htm>
“Twelve Canoes.” <http://www.12canoes.com.au>
Thomson, David. Donald Thomson in Arnhem Land. 2003; rpt. Melbourne: The Miegunyah Press, 2005.
Walters, Ben. “Ten Canoes’ Director Rolf de Heer Interview.” Time Out London.<http://www.timeout.com/film/features/show-feature/2931/ >
 This is the term Marcia Langton (1993:13) uses to distinguish between settled and remote regions and their different Aboriginal cultures.
 This term is used to describe collaboration in analogy to Smith’s (1999) analysis of decolonising research methods.
 See Andrew W. Hurley’s analysis (2007) of the filmmaking process in Where the Green Ants Dream
 De Heer is here referring to how easy it was to raise funding for Ten Canoes.
 On protocols defined from the 1990s and onwards see Bostock, Janke, Langton and Little-Peters.
 The Ten Canoes Press Kit explains that consultation and collaborative relationships developed over a period of time: “Over the next year and a half, Rolf visited Ramingining on numerous occasions. Each time he came, more of the Yolngu would get to know him, and the circle of consultation became wider. This was crucial because by now David Gulpilil, Rolf’s initial chief collaborator, was spending more and more time away from the community, but the work of the film had to continue”.
 De Heer acknowledges that some conflicts that arose prior to filming when “one of the cast – who didn’t end up being in the film but he had been cast and he wanted to do the part – suddenly started to speak against the film and many misunderstandings arose very quickly. In the end the film worked because we trusted each other and they trusted me but, you know, some individuals might be miffed because they might have felt that I should have paid them something on a particular day and they hadn’t been, because that’s contrary to the general agreement that existed. So he started to talk about, you know, ‘these people are gonna rip you off. Don’t do it’” (Walters).
 Thomson’s photographs of goose-egg hunting are reproduced in Thomson, pp. 153, 155, 157. Several critics have addressed the limitations of the film in communicating to diverse audiences the specific cultural and historical significance of the hunt. Signifiers such as black-and-white photography are used to code the hunting sequence as a historical allusion to Thompson’s photograph. This historical signification, while known to the Ramingining community, was not known by any spectators at the time of the film’s initial screenings. As a result the sequence has the potential, as Therese Davis and Louise Hambly have argued, to be received by spectators as representing prehistory rather than events coeval with modern 20th Century life. Hendrik Huijser and Brooke Collins-Gearing argue that the film exemplifies a tendency in non-Indigenous texts (particularly film but also literature) to privilege traditional (pre-contact) Indigenous culture over its hybrid, modern forms.
 In the Press Kit, de Heer describes the photographs as “an invaluable reference and, having become part of the local culture, here were images that could be discussed, incident that could be derived from image … each photo had, in some way, a story that illuminated the whole of the endeavour”.
 The most familiar example (0f many) is the transition to colour in The Wizard of Oz (1939) that is the occasion of Dorothy’s dream vision.
“First there was ‘Eleven Canoes’, which was a project to teach the young people of Ramingining how to use video recording and editing equipment so they could make their own mini-documentaries. This was highly successful, with almost twenty shorts and a renewed and improved media course at Ramingining School coming out of it” (Ten Canoes Press Kit).