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'In My Blood It Runs' Is a Powerful Documentary Chronicling Indigenous Childhood in Australia

The must-see film was shot over nearly four years — and its subject, Dujuan Hoosan, spoke to the United Nations last year about youth incarceration in Australia.
By Sarah Ward
July 08, 2020
By Sarah Ward
July 08, 2020

Dreaming about a different life is a staple of coming-of-age films, with many a movie focusing on uncertain children or unhappy teenagers wishing for an existence far removed from their own. It's also a part of Australian documentary In My Blood It Runs; however, ten-year-old Arrernte/Garrwa boy Dujuan Hoosan and his friends aren't yearning to step into someone else's shoes. Instead, even at their tender age, they can simply see how they're being treated by Australian society at large.

In one early scene, Dujuan and a group of other kids stand on a hill outside the Hidden Valley Aboriginal Town Camp, in Alice Springs. "That's where all the rich men come from," one comments, peering down at the city. "How come this mob get clean houses and not us?" asks Dujuan. "I wish I was living on that side," voices another kid. The chatter goes on, especially about the golf course in clear view. As Dujuan and his friends talk, they all note how much nicer the area looks compared to their own.

A healer who's skilled in administering bush medicine, hunts proficiently and speaks three languages, Dujuan is deeply tied to his heritage and culture. "I was born a little Aboriginal kid. That means I had a memory, a memory about Aboriginals. I just felt something, a memory, history — in my blood it runs," he explains. He doesn't want to leave that behind, but rather for all Indigenous Australians to be treated fairly and equally. Whether he's sitting through school lessons about the First Fleet or speaking about his great-grandmother's upbringing as part of the stolen generation, he's acutely aware of Australia's historical attitudes towards the country's Indigenous population, as well the enduring effects on First Nations peoples today.

With insight, wisdom and determination beyond his years, Dujuan is just as cognisant of what all of the above can mean for himself and other Indigenous children, too. The fact that this bright, charming, passionate, socially engaged kid is considered a poor student, and earns the attention of both welfare services and the police, speaks volumes. In late 2019, after the film initially started screening at festivals both in Australia and worldwide, Dujuan spoke to the United Nations about Australia's approach to youth incarceration, particularly in the Northern Territory — but, before he can get to that point, In My Blood It Runs chronicles his everyday struggles, including balancing western and traditional education, and meeting white society's expectations of a young Indigenous boy. At one point, he's told by his aunt that being sent to juvenile prison means "you're only going to end up in two places: a jail cell or a coffin".

As shot over nearly four years — and interwoven with reflections from Dujuan, his mother Megan, grandmothers Carol and Margaret, and father James, as well as informative archival materials — the result is a compellingly candid and expressive window into Dujuan's mindset, desires and experiences, as told by a skilled filmmaker committed to doing his story justice. It has been five years since Maya Newell gave Australia one of its most engaging and diverse slices of childhood life in the form of the applauded Gayby Baby, and this follow-up continues to ponder the country's next generation, their hopes, dreams and everyday existence, as well as the way that today's attitudes and policies may impact their future.

Now available to watch via ABC iView, In My Blood It Runs is also an observational documentary not only featuring Dujuan as its subject, but made in collaboration with him, his family and his community. It doesn't just feel empathetic as a result, but intimate and authentic, too. Dujuan himself shoots some of its footage, Newell made films alongside Arrernte Elders and families for a decade before starting this project, and the Arrernte and Garrwa families depicted were all consulted during every stage of production. The end product is a must-see movie dedicated not only to painting an accurate portrait of Dujuan's experiences, but to showing how it epitomises Indigenous childhood in Australia.

Check out the trailer below:

In My Blood It Runs is available to stream via ABC iView until August 4.

Top image: Maya Newell.

Published on July 08, 2020 by Sarah Ward

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