Creative Spirits

Jedda

Charles Chauvel | Australia 1955 | 101 min

Determined to tell a story that could be told only in Australia by Australians, Charles Chauvel made Jedda—-the first Australian feature film to use Aboriginal actors in the lead roles and the first to be filmed in colour.

Set in the Northern Territory, it is the tragic story of a young Aboriginal girl of the Arunte tribe, adopted by a white woman, Sarah McCann, as a surrogate for her own baby who has died. She names the baby Jedda after a wild bird and raises her as a white child, isolating her from Aboriginal contact. But when Marbuck, an Aboriginal man seeking work arrives on the station, Jedda is fascinated by him.

Marbuck takes the half-willing teenage girl as his captive, returning to his tribal lands, only to find he is rejected by his tribe for breaking the marriage traditions. The two are hounded from the tribe and chased by the men from Jedda’s home station, until Marbuck is driven mad, and falls over a cliff to his death, together with Jedda.

Cast
Release dates May 5th, 1955 - Australia (Premiere January 3rd, 1955 Star Theatre, Darwin)
1956 - UK (73 min)
1957 - USA (73 min)
Video/DVD Release Date November 2004 on DVD after 2 years of restauration work.
Awards
Rating G - general
Language level medium
Distributor Columbia
Soundtrack Isadore Goodman; 'Dreamtime For Jedda', released on a 78rpm vinyl (2:29)
Genre Drama
Notes

Jedda is available through National Film and Sound Archives, Urban Cinefile or ScreenSound Australia

The film was introduced on video by the Chauvels’ daughter, Susanne Chauvel Carlsson.

In Great Britain and the United States, the film was distributed as Jedda the Uncivilised.

Research was carried out by Bill Harney.

Jedda was the first colour feature made by an Australian company. It was the first Australian film to use Aboriginal actors in lead roles - its exploration of the clash of cultures was progressive for its time. It was the first Australian film to be shown at the Cannes Film Festival. Due to the early film material used the film was entirely lost until 1972 when special backup copies allowed a full restoration.

Half-Cast Joe, the narrator and male lead, was played by a white actor in blackface.

Other films by Charles Chauvel:
Uncivilised (1936)

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