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form y separately published work icon Jedda single work   film/TV  
Alternative title: Jedda The Uncivilised
Issue Details: First known date: 1955... 1955 Jedda
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

'On a lonely cattle station in the Northern Territory, a newly born Aboriginal baby is adopted by a white woman in place of her own child who has died. The child is raised as a white child and forbidden any contact with the Aborigines on the station. Years later, Jedda is drawn by the mysteries of the Aboriginal people but restrained by her upbringing. Eventually she is fascinated by a full-blood Aboriginal, Marbuck, who arrives at the station seeking work and is drawn to his campfire by his song. He takes her away as his captive and returns to his tribal lands, but he is rejected by his tribe for having broken their marriage taboos. Pursued by the men from Jedda's station and haunted by the death wish of his own tribe, Marbuck is driven insane and finally falls, with Jedda, over a cliff.'

(Synopsis from the Australian Film, Television and Radio School website,

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

Works about this Work

y separately published work icon Dispossession and the Making of Jedda (1955) : Hollywood in Ngunnawal Country Catherine Kevin , London : Anthem Press , 2020 18678791 2020 multi chapter work criticism

'In 1955 ‘Jedda’ was released in Australian cinemas and the international film world, starring Indigenous actors Rosalie Kunoth and Robert Tudawali. That year Eric Bell watched the film in the Liberty Cinema in Yass. Twelve years later he was dismayed to read a newly erected plaque in the main street of the Yass Valley village of Bowning. It plainly stated that the Ngunnawal people, on whose country Bowning stood, had been wiped out by an epidemic of influenza. The local Shire Council was responsible for the plaque; they also employed Bell’s father. The Bells were Ngunnawal people.

'The central paradox of 'Dispossession and the Making of Jedda (1955)' is the enthusiasm of a pastoral community, made wealthy by the occupation of Ngunnawal land, for a film that addressed directly the continuing legacy of settler-colonialism, a legacy that was playing out in their own relationships with the local Ngunnawal people at the time of their investment in the film. While the local council and state government agencies collaborated to minimize the visibility of Indigenous peoples, and the memory of the colonial violence at the heart of European prosperity, a number of wealthy and high-profile members of this pastoral community actively sought involvement in a film that would bring into focus the aftermath of colonial violence, the visibility of its survivors and the tensions inherent in policies of assimilation and segregation that had characterized the treatment of Ngunnawal people in their lifetimes.

'Based on oral histories, documentary evidence, images and film, 'Dispossession and the Making of Jedda (1955)' explores the themes of colonial nostalgia, national memory and family history. Charles Chauvel’s ‘Jedda’ (1955), a shared artefact of mid-twentieth-century settler-colonialism, is its fulcrum. The book newly locates the story of the genesis of ‘Jedda’ and, in turn, ‘Jedda’ becomes a cultural context and point of reference for the history of race relations it tells.' (Publication summary)

y separately published work icon Reel Men : Australian Masculinity in the Movies, 1949-1962 Chelsea Barnett , Carlton : Melbourne University Press , 2019 17379128 2019 multi chapter work criticism

'Set against the shifting social and political backdrop of a nation throwing off the shackles of one war yet faced with the instability of the new world order, Reel Men probes the concept of 1950s masculinity itself, asking what it meant to be an Australian man at this time. Offering a compelling exploration of the Australian fifties, the book challenges the common belief that the fifties was a 'dead' era for Australian filmmaking. Reel Men engages with fourteen Australian feature films made and released between 1949 and 1962, and examines the multiple masculinities in circulation at this time. Dealing with beloved Australian films like Jedda (1955), Smiley (1956), and The Shiralee (1957), and national icons of the silver screen including Chips Rafferty, Charles 'Bud' Tingwell, and Peter Finch, Reel Men delves into our cultural past to dismantle powerful assumptions about film, the fifties, and masculinity in Australia.' (Publication summary)

“Sun Arise” : The Appropriation of Australia’s First Peoples’ Music, 1956–1974 Bill Casey , 2018 single work criticism
— Appears in: Journal of Australian Studies , vol. 42 no. 3 2018; (p. 357-373)
‘They Don’t Tame, Only on the Surface’ : Masculinity, Race and the Project of Assimilation in Jedda (1955) Chelsea Barnett , 2018 single work criticism
— Appears in: History Australia , vol. 15 no. 1 2018; (p. 46-61)

'This article explores the representation of masculinity and race in the 1955 film Jedda. Popularly remembered as a ‘classic’ Australian film, Jedda is best known for its explicit critique of Indigenous affairs in the assimilation era. This article, however, contends that the film’s treatment of differing masculinities reveals its anti-assimilationist meanings, both through its affirmation of white, radical nationalist masculinity and its portrayal of Indigenous male sexuality as dangerous. Ultimately, Jedda concluded that assimilatory efforts were futile, and affirmed the cultural imagining of Australia as a white nation in which Indigenous people could make no claim for legitimacy.'  (Publication abstract)

y separately published work icon Rosalie, Marcia and Jedda Beverley Wang (interviewer), Canberra : ABC Radio National , 2017 16902557 2017 single work interview podcast

'Back in 1955 Rosalie Kunoth-Monks and Robert Tudawali starred in Jedda.

'It was the first film in Australian history to feature actual Indigenous actors in the leading roles.

'Kunoth-Monks played the central character of Jedda, and the film broke new ground in terms of representation.

'But the film's depiction of Indigenous Australians — drawing on romanticised stereotypes — is also problematic.

'Professor Marcia Langton played the character of Jedda in Night Cries, a 1989 response to the original film.

'Langton and Kunoth-Monks talk to It's Not A Race to discuss the legacy of the film, and their experiences playing the iconic character of Jedda.'


'Jedda' Is YOUR Film 1954 single work review
— Appears in: Dawn : A Magazine for the Aboriginal People of N.S.W. , vol. 3 no. 9 1954;

— Review of Jedda Charles Chauvel , Elsa Chauvel , 1955 single work film/TV
The Mirror of Whiteness: Blackface in Charles Chauvel's Jedda Ben Miller , 2007 single work criticism
— Appears in: JASAL , Special Issue 2007; (p. 140-156)
'This article posits that Chauvel's early experience in and with "blackface" was a significant influence for his own films ... This article recounts a history of blackface performances, as well as ways of reading blackface, to fill some critical gaps in an iconic Australian film - Charles Chauvel's Jedda (1955). My reading of Jedda will turn the film back onto itself to reflect not just Chauvel, but also a long history of racial representation, spanning many continents and over 100 years, which was always radical and racist, benevolent and violent. When Chauvel wore and directed blackface he was, perhaps quite unconsciously, reiterating racial fictions that had justified violent colonialism and slavery since the eighteenth century. To understand this, Chauvel's work must be read within a history of blackface.' (p.140-41)
In Darwin They Call Me Bobby Wilson Robert Tudawali , 1991 extract autobiography (The Unlucky Australians)
— Appears in: North of the Ten Commandments : A Collection of Northern Territory Literature 1991; (p. 110-113)
Actor and activist Tudawali recalls some of his experiences as an Aboriginal, in particular his work to promote equal rights for Aborigines.
Desert Hauntings, Public Interiors and National Modernity : From 'The Overlanders' to 'Walkabout' and 'Japanese Story' Brigid Rooney , 2007 single work criticism
— Appears in: Southerly , vol. 67 no. 1-2 2007; (p. 410-422)
Arresting Metaphors : Anti-Colonial Females in Australian Cinema Anthony Lambert , 2005 single work criticism
— Appears in: Postcolonial Text , vol. 1 no. 2 2005;
'This paper attempts to advance new understandings of female cinematic agency by interrogating its connection to patterns of cultural colonialism in Australian film. The visual presence of female Aboriginality in contemporary Australian film undermines, in subtle and explicit ways, the possibility of a truly secure white identity tied to the Australian environment. It does so through the introduction of the complexities of Aboriginal difference, through the subversion of white cinematic narratives and mythologies, and through physical agency and action. In this way, the anti-colonial impulse in the cinema emerges, in films which effectively 'unearth' the continuing cinematic metaphors of colonial power. -- From the journal.
The Land of 'Jedda' Glenville Pike , 2007 single work essay
— Appears in: My Yesterdays : Life of Glenville Pike in North Queensland and the Northern Territory 2007; (p. 81 - 82)
Last amended 31 May 2017 17:37:24