Filmed in 1955 Jedda was the first Australian feature film to use Aboriginal actors in lead roles, the first to be filmed in colour and the first to be shown at the Cannes film festival.
It tells 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 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.
Jedda was one of several popular melodramas of the post-World War II era that dealt with miscegenation. Mills explores these themes and the representation of the Australian Aborigine, while making comparisons to the Native American sub-genre of the Hollywood Western.
Mills argues that, because of its 1950s views of Aboriginal people, Jedda can be seen as a racist melodrama. The film’s greatest strength lies in Chauvel’s love of the Australian landscape.
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