Based on Richard Frankland's experiences as a field officer for the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, No Way to Forget follows one of his many car journeys between cities for the hearings. It also marks his own spiritual and emotional journey, in which he attempts to deal with the pain of the knowledge he bears.
'In this essay I will discuss how Richard Frankland's award-winning short film No Way to Forget (1996) approaches the topic of Aboriginal deaths in custody in gothic terms. As I will show, Frankland reverses gothic dichotomies, employs tropes of haunting and trauma, and ultimately exposes the fictional quality of the gothic itself in his representations of the Australian common law and its institutions. Through an appropriation and transformation of both this originally European mode and the English legal tradition, he thus creates his very own version of an Indigenous gothic. By asserting the cultural strength of that vast body of knowledge summarized as "Dreaming/Law/ Lore,” Frankland reclaims Aboriginal identity and subverts what he and others have described as the de-humanizing quality of the law in civic and spiritual terms? I will therefore first outline the benefits that the field of law and literature offers for questioning the factual discourse of law through the study of fiction before I turn to the dangers the use of the gothic mode holds for Aboriginal appropriations. The opportunities filmmaking offers for re-claiming Koori culture and identity will conclude my theoretical outline. I will also draw on the doctrine of reception and the legal foundations of the Australian common-law tradition in order to introduce my following analysis of Frankland's No Way to Forget. This analysis will be supplemented by readings of Frankland's 2002 play Conversations with the Dead, according to the author "a much heavier and harder version of 'No Way to Forget'".