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Ronin Films

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Year: 1989

Classification: G

Runtime: 54 min

Produced In: Australia

Directed By: John Tristram

Produced By: John Tristram, I. James Wilson

Language: Aranda and English dialogue, English subtitles

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Albert Namatjira was the first Aboriginal artist to be recognised by white Australians. He was torn between two worlds simply because he had the wisdom to recognise both. Two cultures, two laws. The feting and fawning of the city glitterati, ultimately led to his tragic decline and death.

FIRST CITIZEN: ALBERT NAMATJIRA explores the great talent which enabled the Aranda Aboriginal to become the first to adopt the painting techniques and modes of expression of culture which were in direct contrast to his own. Namatjira's life is an expression of Australia's faltering response and awareness of Aboriginal culture and the diametrically opposed Western values of art, law and morality.

The story of Namatjira is one of extreme contrast and paradox. More than almost any other well-known Australian, his life and stature as an artist reflect the changing attitudes of Australian society in the 20th century. During his lifetime (1902-1959) he was a pivotal figure in some of the dramatic changes wrought between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.

The film has live footage and a collection of re-creations of periods of Namatjira's life, newsreel excerpts and archival footage. It details a number of his paintings. Interviews with Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri reveal he painted with Namatjira at a very early stage at Glen Helen. Sir William Dargie relates a personal account of the time when Namatjira sat for the Archibald Prize-winning portrait. The film offers a sensitive, detailed record and analysis of Albert Namatjira.

Gus Ntjalka Williams (Albert Namatjira as an adult)
Warren Ntjalka Williams (Albert Namatjira as a young man
Phillip Andrew (Albert Namatjira as a boy)
And the people of Hermannsburg
Voices – Justine Saunders, Peter Sumner
Narrated by Michael Johnson

Produced by John Davy Tristram and I. James Wilson
Directed by John Davy Tristram
Written by Nadine Amadio
Cinematographer – Garry Maunder
Sound Recording – Ralph Steele
Edited by Phillippa Harvey
Music by Bob Davies and Rick Chadwick
Location Liaison – Elaine Namatjira

Assisted by the Aboriginal Arts Board of the Australia Council

© 1988, Juniper Films