Yellow Fella


Yellow Fella looks at the life of Tom Lewis, specifically at his quest to find the resting place of his father.

In this documentary we accompany Tom on his journey and vividly witness how he's going through mixed emotions, disappointments or phases where only sarcasm seems to keep him going.

While Tom's mother is a traditional Ngungubuyu woman of southern Arnhem Land, his father is a Welsh stockman he never really knew. Tom grew up on the Roper River mission and is what white people previously called a "half-caste" or, as Tom puts it, "I'm not black, I'm not white, I'm a yellow fella and I'm gonna stay that way."

"One of the shocks I had to go through was learning that my mother didn't love my white father and that they separated one year after she had me," Tom reveals. "I don't know when he died or where he is buried."

But Yellow Fella is much more than just Tom's journey. Along the way we can learn much about Aboriginality if we listen carefully:

  • "We've got a responsibility for this culture, be we black or white."
  • "The strength of women is important because they carry the culture."
  • "The sacred sites are churches for people to pray." You don't see the colours of our churches. [...] Sometimes I like to blow your churches..."
  • "The Rainbow Serpent never ever goes to sleep."
  • "It's good to know that we can do things in the bloody bush and reach the world."
  • "I don't want to blame white fellas because what's the point of crying over spilled milk? Sure, we're sick of the hurting, but the only way to tell them is to do good things."

In Yellow Fella Tom finally finds the cemetery where his father is buried, but he just can't find the grave since many of them are unmarked. And here the film extends into the present, because after the premiere a kid rang him up and could name him the grave's number. A long search came to an end.

Still image showing Tom Lewis in the Australian bush.
Tom Lewis tells his story in Yellow Fella.


Tom E Lewis
Angelina George - Tom's mother
Release dates
2005 - Australia
Ronin Films
Alister Spence

Yellow Fella includes 16mm footage taken of the 1950s Roper River mission in south-east Arnhem Land, where Tom grew up.

Ivan Sen's previous work includes feature film Beneath Clouds, short films Dust, and documentaries Who Was Evelyn Orcher?, The Dreamers and Vanish.

Tom E Lewis also appeared in the feature film The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith in 1978.

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Cite this page

Korff, J 2018, Yellow Fella, <>, retrieved 25 July 2024

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