Ten Canoes: Special Edition (2006)

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Released 24-Jan-2007

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Animation
Theatrical Trailer
Featurette-Behind The Scenes
Short Film
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2006
Running Time 87:38 (Case: 92)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (82:00)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up ?
Region Coding 4 Directed By Rolf de Heer
Peter Djigirr

Madman Entertainment
Starring Rolf de Heer
Richard Birrinbirrin
Johnny Buniyira
Peter Djigirr
Frances Djulibing
David Gulpilil
Jamie Gulpilil
Crusoe Kurddal
Peter Minygululu
Case ?
RPI $34.95 Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    A film by Rolf de Heer and the Ramingining people, Ten Canoes is reputedly the first big-screen film ever made in an ancient, indigenous language. Set a thousand years ago, in Northern Arnhem land, Ten Canoes is a surprisingly funny parable of forbidden love, which remains relevant and compelling today. Critically acclaimed, Ten Canoes swept the 2006 AFI Awards, winning for Best Film, Best Direction, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, and Best Sound. It is also won a Jury Prize "Un Certain Regard" at Festival De Cannes 2006.

    "One hundred and fifty spears, ten canoes, three wives...trouble."

    Set in a mythical past, Ten Canoes is presented as a story the Ramingining people's ancestors, told in turn, about their ancestors: The old and wise Minygululu (Peter Minygululu), leads a group of men from his village up river for goose egg gathering. First the men will have to build ten canoes for the journey, and later build a campsite amongst the tree-tops to keep them safe from crocodiles.

    Meanwhile, Minygululu is well aware that his younger brother, Dayindi (Jamie Gulpilil), has his young lustful eyes set on Minygululu's third, and youngest wife. With tribal law in danger of being broken, Minygululu tells Dayindi a parallel, ancestral story, which acts as a stern cautionary tale, to "help him live proper way". The story unfolds over many days, and Dayindi, and indeed the viewers, will need to learn patience to appreciate the art and intricacies of Minygululu's story-telling.

    Minygululu's cautionary tale is about Yeeralparil (also played by Jamie Gulpilil), a young single man who desires one of the wives of his older brother, Ridjimiraril (Crusoe Kurddal). Around this simple tale of forbidden love, off-shoots stories of magic, kidnapping, murder, revenge, and salvation.

    Although the story is told in an indigenous language, with very naturalistic performances by a cast of first-time Aboriginal actors, there are contemporary English subtitles to accompany the dialogue, and an often cheeky and irreverently fun, English narration by David Gulpilil.

   Remarkably filmed on location in the crocodile-invested swamps of Northern Arhem land, and co-directed by Rolf de Heer and Peter Djigirr, Ten Canoes has a feeling of authenticity that almost makes it feel like an ethnographic documentary, rather than an entertaining drama. As the DVD's extras reveal, this was achieved from an extensive study of, and collaboration with, the Ramingining people. Furthermore, Production Designer, Beverley Freeman molded the look and feel of the film around anthropologist, Dr. Donald Thomson's mid-1930s black and white photographs. It is accepted that Thomson was the first white person to come in contact with these people, and as such, his extensive photographs record images of a time before their traditional culture was impacted by white civilization.

    Although Ten Canoes naturally found an audience amongst the arthouse cinema crowd, and the international film festival circuit, it might find a new audience on DVD.

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Transfer Quality


    Overall the transfer is very good. Ian Jones' wonderful cinematography captures the raw and untamed beauty of the wetlands of Australia's top end; and I recommend watching this DVD with a projector or on a large screen.

    The transfer is presented in a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1. It is 16x9 enhanced. However, I understand that the original theatrical aspect ratio was 2.35:1, and furthermore, the DVD's cover incorrectly claims the DVD's transfer is 2.35:1.

    The sharpness is good throughout most of the film, as seen with the detail in the bush-land image at 9:49, but occasionally the image can be a little soft, such as the face at 19:19. The shadow detail and black level are also mostly good. For example, consider the scene inside the dark interior of the hut at 69:54.

    Colour is used extensively in the story-telling, as the film is set in three different time periods. The colours range from black and white, through to a rich palette of well-saturated colours.

    The image occasionally appears to suffer from MPEG artefacts, such as pixelization. For example, consider the blocky image of the forest at 19:58.

    There is no problem with Film-To-Video or film artefacts.

    English subtitles are provided, and are player-generated and thus optional.

    This is a Single-Sided, Dual-Layered disc, with the layer change placed at 82:00. The feature is divided into 13 chapters.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are two audio options for the feature, both delivered with Dolby Digital 5.1 encoding: The first is with Aboriginal dialogue only, while the second is the theatrical version of the film, which adds English narration by David Gulpilil. Note, the DVD's cover promises a dts 5.1 track which is not present on the DVD.

    The dialogue quality and audio sync seemed fine.

    The score seems limited to some source music, and very occasional use of traditional music, such as during the "death dance".

    The surround presence and LFE activity is limited. As a dialogue-based drama, the surround sound mix is very front-heavy, with a lot of dialogue from the centre speaker. The rear speakers are used effectively at times to provide some ambience, such as the sounds of the bush-land setting.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are quite a few extras spread over two discs.


    A simple menu with audio.

Disc One


    Presented in a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, there are three observational documentaries, without narration, showing the construction of some of the films props and sets by the Ramingining people:

Mini Documentaries

    Presented in a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1, non-16x9 enhanced, these five shorts are the results from teaching local Ramingining students the basics of filmmaking.

Theatrical Trailer

Palace Film Trailers

Disc Two

Aerial Map of Arnhem Land

    A combination of satellite images, aerial photography, and computer animation.

Thomson Time Photo Gallery

    A look at some of Anthropologists, Dr. Donald Thomson's photographs from the 1930s, which inspired the look of Ten Canoes.

People, Place and Ten Canoes Gallery

    A long series of photographic stills from the film's production, featuring the main cast and locations.

Interview with Peter Djigirr

    Running for only about four minutes, the film's Co-Director and Actor speaks briefly about the "white invasion" and subsequent loss of his people's culture and tribal law.

Interview with Rolf de Heer

    Running for an even shorter time, and recorded on-set between takes, de Heer, as the film's Producer, Co-Writer, and Co-Director, briefly outlines the genesis of the film project.

DVD ROM Content

    Study Guide

Madman Propaganda

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Ten Canoes does not seem to have been released on DVD in Region 1.


    Ten Canoes is a delicately paced film that will reward the patient.

The video quality is good overall.

The audio quality is good, albeit a little limited.

The extras are genuine and interesting.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Brandon Robert Vogt (warning: bio hazard)
Monday, March 05, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDSony RDR-HX715 DVD recorder, using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung 106cm Plasma TV (42 Inch). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSony STR DE-545

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Aspect ratio cut = less than three points for Video - Tom (read my bio)
Aspect ratio - wolfgirv
Extra Documentary - penguin (there is no bio)
Aspect Ratio again - Gary Couzens
More about the aspect ratio - Gary Couzens
aspect ratio - penguin (there is no bio)
Blu-ray release - penguin (there is no bio)