Jandamarra’s War is a documentary film that recreates the life of the almost mythic hero from the Bunuba Aboriginal people who led the resistance against colonial power in the Kimberley in the latter part of the 19th century.
Jandamarra’s stand continued until his death, aged 21, at Tunnel Creek in 1897. Sickeningly his head was cut from his body and sent to England - like Pemulwuy and Yagan before him.
But it’s a story that’s been kept faithfully by the Bunuba since that time.
Jandamarra’s War is fashioned as a factually based, ripping yarn. It’s graced with some vivid re-creations; Jandamarra’s more violent encounters are shot like high-quality action, the interviews are terse but the highlights here are those key moments where his conscience plays havoc with him as his brothers, manacled at the neck, ask why he holds the white man’s gun in his hand. Laced with period photographs and quotes from a fiery newspaper op-ed piece demanding the government do something, the film also treads into the highly controversial issue of genocide.
There was clearly a war of extermination being fought in the Kimberley.—Howard Pedersen, author
Jandamarra has always been branded an outlaw, but for us he was a freedom fighter.—Mitch Torres, director
- Keithan Holloway - Jandamarra
Stanley Jangary Senior - Ellemarra
John McGuckin - Blythe
Ernie Dingo - narrator
- Release dates
- 12 May 2011 - Australia (ABC1)
- Video/DVD release date
- June 2011
- M - Mature
- ABC, Electric Pictures Independent
Jandamarra’s War was filmed entirely on location on Bunuba country, around Tunnel Creek, Windjana Gorge, Lennard Flats and the Napier Ranges. Many of the cast and crew came from Derby, Fitzroy Crossing and Broome.
Jandamarra was 17 years old when he started his war, and 23 when he was killed.
The DVD contains 51mins of extras, including footage of Kimberley aerials and Bunuba land.
Mitch Torres first heard the story from her grandfather when she was 8 years old, and it has fascinated her ever since. Her grandfather personally knew Jandamarra and is related to him.
After the film was shown to local communities in the Kimberley the number of boys in that area wanting to go through law increased threefold.
Jandamarra’s knack for outwitting police sparked rumours that he had magical powers and some terrified pastoralists abandoned entire settlements.
Based on the book Jandamarra and the Bunuba Resistance by Howard Pedersen and Banjo Woorunmurra.
George Brooking, who is interviewed in the film, is the senior custodian of the Jandamarra story.
Find a copy of "Jandamarra’s War"
Other films by Mitch (Michelle) Torres
- 2005 Case 442
Explore more Aboriginal movies
Aboriginal movie timeline
Explore movie history with the Aboriginal film timeline.
Take the quiz: Are you an Aboriginal movie buff?