Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, The (1978)

“I’ve declared war — that’s what I’ve done. I’ve declared war!”

Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith Poster

Synopsis:
In the early 20th century, a half-aboriginal Australian (Tommy Lewis) tries to adapt to white culture, but finds himself unable to cope with rampant, debilitating racism.

Genres:

Review:
Fred Schepisi’s second film — a follow-up to his semi-autobiographical debut feature, The Devil’s Playground (1976) — was this adaptation of Thomas Keneally’s novel about the tragedy of systemic racism. Much like the New Zealand film UTU (1983), Blacksmith attempts to explain why relentlessly downtrodden individuals may turn to violence as a final means of expression: when all else is taken away from Jimmie (he’s unable to feed his own family), he must choose between abject resignation (other aborigines have descended into alcoholism) or rebellion. Blacksmith isn’t an easy film to watch, but it bears viewing by anyone genuinely interested in Australian history.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Tommy Lewis in the title role
    Tommy Lewis
  • A no-holds-barred look at race relations and prejudice in early-20th century Australia
    Prejudice
  • A powerful portrayal of a man attempting to straddle two radically different cultures
    Two cultures
  • A disturbingly realistic glimpse at aboriginal shantytowns
    Shantytown

Must See?
Yes, simply for its historical importance. It’s listed as a cult movie in the back of Peary’s book, but I find it hard to believe that anyone could stomach this harsh film more than once.

Categories

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

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One Response to “Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, The (1978)”

  1. First viewing. A must.

    In complete agreement with the assessment. For that reason, and because the film does speak for itself, there’s not much I can add. It is an extremely harsh film – sometimes shocking, even though certain murders are thankfully not as graphic as they could have been. And though all ffs should see it, I agree as well that it’s a challenge to sit through it once, let alone again.

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