Postcolonial Cinema: an investigation of Indigenous Australian history and identity represented in the two contemporary films Australia and Ten Canoes

Ida Mari Dreijer

Studenteropgave: Speciale


The focus in this project is an investigation of the representation of Indigenous Australians in the two contemporary films Australia and Ten Canoes. Furthermore, it is to grasp what subject positions are available for the Indigenous characters in the films, especially in relation to former fixed power relations between coloniser and colonised in Australia. Finally, but not less important, the project continues to answer the first two questions by relating them closely to film form. The point of departure is classical and contemporary film theory contributing with different perspectives on the psychoanalytical concept of the gaze. My main inspiration derives from E. Ann Kaplan’s contribution of the imperial gaze which is a transformation of Laura Mulvey’s controversial outline of the male gaze from 1975. Kaplan relates the concept to other aspects of difference than gender, namely that of racial and cultural difference. Furthermore, she develops the gaze into what she calls looking relations which enables me to uncover subject positions on three levels. Primarily I concentrate on characters. Moreover, I situate these subject positions in relation to the overall message or world view that the films provide, as well as potential meanings that the audience produces. Another theoretical inspiration for the project has been Homi Bhabha’s work on the force of ambivalence connected to stereotypes in colonial discourse. Through the recognition of such ambivalence it becomes clear that the once fixed binary oppositions attributed to former coloniser and colonised cannot remain fixed. Furthermore it explains some of the reasons why these oppositional categories have been reproduced again and again. Methodologically, I make use of Robert Stam and Louise Spencer’s approach when working with colonialism, racism and representation. Their approach goes well with the theoretical concepts of the imperial gaze and looking relations as they stress the importance of film form and genre, rather than dealing only with positive and negative images. As the films are different in form and genre the results of the analysis are equally different. Broadly, the project demonstrates how a focus on subject positions and culture enables change. It does not suggest that the prior binary oppositions should be either one or the other; rather it suggests that when differences have been recognized, there should be found a common ground.

UddannelserEngelsk, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) Kandidat
Udgivelsesdato19 jan. 2010
VejledereIda Klitgård


  • stereotypes
  • film form
  • looking relations
  • subject positions
  • ambivalence
  • postcolonial studies
  • the gaze
  • Indigenous Australians