Top End Wedding: Movie Review

National Reconciliation Week is a national campaign held each year to commemorate two significant milestones in Australia’s reconciliation journey—the successful 1967 referendum and the 1992 High Court Mabo decision. It is an awareness program designed to encourage Australians to join the movement towards a unified future by building positive relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Don’t worry…….I don’t talk politics or religion on an empty stomach.

This year during Reconciliation Week a prominent Australian sporting event took place at which a number of our Indigenous sportspeople refused to sing the National Anthem on the basis that there was no reference to the Aboriginal race in the song lyrics. 

Fair enough. Still no political commentary from this end.

I recently went to the cinema to see a great little Australian flick called Top End Wedding. Don’t go to the movies often. Too Old School: I keep my shoes on, don’t dangle my feet across the top of the seat in front, and I never, ever take KFC into the cinema to eat. I haven’t eaten KFC since I was 13 and they were still using chickens.

Miranda Tapsell (Laura) plays an Aboriginal lawyer in Adelaide who heads to Darwin to spring a surprise wedding to an Englishman, Gwilym Lee (Ned), upon her Indigenous mother and white father – only to find her mother has disappeared. She’s got 10 days to follow her trail across the Northern Territory, and finally to her mother’s birthplace, the Tiwi Islands, and salvage her wedding plans before they crumble entirely.

Many of the reviews I’ve read have knocked the movie for being “clumsy”. Guess what people? We aren’t a polished lot. Embrace it! Some of the earlier scenes do make you cringe slightly, but they are all scenarios that we are familiar with : the drunken Hens Party with crass girlfriends, wedding decorations from Spotlight, the phallic cake, and introducing the pet dog to the grandparents as if it were human. Happens all the time. Admit it. That’s how we live, it’s who we are.

It’s so Australian that I’m not sure that international audiences would get the humour, though the scenery would have them enthralled. Darwin is just so Darwin ( and I adore Darwin), the miles and miles of red dirt of Katherine, and the magnificent chasms and cliffs of Kakadu National Park are simply stunning.

The second half of the movie moves into different territory, literally and metaphorically. When Laura locates her Mum on the Tiwi Islands we are in a different cultural sphere. Though part of our Northern Territory, they are 80 km to the north of Darwin adjoining the Timor Sea. They comprise Melville Island, Bathurst Island, and nine smaller uninhabited islands, with a combined area of 8,320 square kilometres. 

They are inhabited by the Tiwi people as they have been since before European settlement. The Tiwi are an indigenous Australian people, culturally and linguistically distinct from those on the mainland just across the water and number around 88 per cent of the population.

This has definite universal appeal with themes of family, friendship, cultural differences and reconciliation. Reconciliation. A good little flick with a subtle message and fun soundtrack.

Tip : Take tissues

*Bathurst Island has a fascinating history. It was from Bathurst Island that the Japanese aeroplanes were spotted headed for Darwin. The Catholic Father reported the sighting but no one took any notice. In the movie Australia, which depicted the Bombing of Darwin the island where Nulla and the other indigenous children were taken was Mission Island, which was actually Bathurst Island.

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