Yolngu Boy (2001)

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Released 14-Jul-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Theatrical Trailer-2
Interviews-Cast & Crew
Featurette-On Location
Web Links
Audio Bites-How Do I Pronounce Yolngu?
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 84:58 (Case: 83)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Stephen Johnson

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Sean Mununggurr
John Sebastian Pilakui
Nathan Daniels
Makuma Yunupingu
Lirrina Mununggurr
Mangatjay Yunupingu
Nungki Yunupingu
Jack Thompson
Case ?
RPI ? Music Mark Ovenden

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, teenagers
Annoying Product Placement Yes, Mars, Adidas, others
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Australian Aboriginal culture is described as one of the oldest living cultures on Earth. It is changing through contact with modern Western culture, but they are actively trying to preserve their history, their mythos and their ethos. They have one big thing in their favour - they are living in one of the most isolated places on the planet. Where? Arnhem Land, where outsiders need special permission to intrude. The makers of this film got that special permission, and much more. They got active cooperation, and constant critique to help them tell a story that was accurate, as well as interesting.

    Yolngu Boy is about three boys on the verge of manhood. Not manhood in the Western meaning. Not a case of reaching an age where they can drink or vote, nor passing a driver's licence test. Their transition from boyhood to manhood happens when they are judged ready for "ceremony". Once they have been through "ceremony" they can participate in men's business. These are three boys who grew up together, who were initiated together, but who are starting to head in different directions:

    Lorrpu and Milika have been chosen for ceremony - they are learning what they need to know. Botj has not been chosen, yet. He will still be a boy after they are men. This is a major stress. Botj will be going back to jail, too. This is too much for Lorrpu - he gets Botj out of the hospital, and they set out to trek to Darwin...

    There are numerous flashbacks in this film, which take a bit of getting used to. Basically, any time the film is concentrating on children, it is probably a flashback. When it is concentrating on teenagers, it is probably current-day. The other thing that takes a little getting used to is the blend of reality and mythos - the scenes of the spirit-man seem real, and are, in a sense.

    If the idea of hunting upsets you, be warned that these boys are hunting to survive. The moment of the kill is not shown, so it's not too rough. There is one unpleasant moment in a crocodile poacher's camp, but it really is momentary.

    There are some elements that made me uncomfortable - the petrol sniffing, for one, and the slum outside Darwin, for another. But there is some real joy in this film, with the scene in the rock pool being just one example. This is a sympathetic portrayal, but there are still some sharp edges of reality poking through. It made me a little more aware of a culture that is quite a long way from mine (about 2,000 kilometres or so north...).

    "Time is not a line, it's a circle"

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Transfer Quality


    This film is presented in an aspect ratio of about 1.85:1, but is not 16x9 enhanced. That's a shame - the picture is beautifully clear, and 16x9 enhancement would have helped even more.

    The picture is quite sharp and quite clear with excellent shadow detail and no low level noise.

    Colour is excellent - the bright sunlight of the Northern Territory lends itself to deep, fully-saturated colours. There's no oversaturation or colour bleed.

    There are no film artefacts. There's some aliasing (to be expected on a picture this sharp), and a little bit of moire. There's very little in the way of background shimmer, and what there is might well be heat haze rather than MPEG shimmer. This is a clean picture.

    There are no subtitles. I wish there were, so I could see how some things are spelled.

    The disc is single sided and single layered, so there is no layer change. It's OK - there isn't enough on this disc to stress the capacity of the single layer, so we don't have to suffer overcompression.

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


    The only soundtrack on this disc is an English Dolby Digital 2.0 one.

    The dialogue is clear and generally readily understood, even with some strong accents. Audio sync is never a problem.

    The score includes quite a variety of songs. There are some contemporary bands (Regurgitator, for example), and quite a few songs from Yothu Yindi (unsurprising - the film is sponsored by the Yothu Yindi Foundation, in part). It is an effective combination, backed up by extra scoring from Mark Ovenden.

    The Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack is not marked as surround encoded, but my decoder found something to play with - one scene in particular (in the community centre, when Botj is sniffing petrol) is remarkable for its surround sound. If your decoder only works on marked soundtracks, you'll miss out - I hope that's not the case. The subwoofer wasn't used.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menu is animated, with music, and an opening transition.

Trailer - Art house (2:21)

    This is the trailer aimed at interesting the art-house crowd. It makes an interesting comparison with the next one.

Trailer - Youth (2:15)

    This trailer aims at getting young people interested in the film. It uses a couple of terms I'd have thought were inappropriate to Australia.

Interviews - Behind the Scenes 

    We get interviews with:

R4 vs R1

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

    I cannot find any record of this film being released in Region 1, yet.


    Yolngu Boy is an interesting and worthwhile film, given a decent transfer onto DVD.

    The video quality is rather good, impaired only by not being 16x9 enhanced.

    The audio quality is very good.

    The extras are limited, but interesting.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Friday, May 10, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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