Across our globe, there is a darkness that sits at the heart of every criminal justice system. An inescapable truth deeply embedded within the walls of every juvenile detention centre and prison; the link between those who suffer oppression and incarceration. Back in 2016, this darkness was uncovered in media reports, relating to the abuse and humiliation of young people at the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre in Northern Australia. An establishment solely inhabited by Aboriginal young people who had no voice or community power in challenging their abuse. Their plight only further highlighting the link between institutional discrimination, educational failure, and cultural division in Australian society. Now with In My Blood it Runs, documentary filmmaker Maya Newell further explores this interface with a deeply personal family story.
Newell is no stranger to documentary filmmaking that works in collaboration with her subjects. In effect dovetailing powerful social themes with a personal approach that allows her subjects to actively steer the narrative. From Richard to Gayby Baby her style of person centred filmmaking has challenged the viewer by allowing the camera to focus on the individual. Never seeking to attach sweeping judgments or news like commentary to her films. However, with In My Blood It Runs Newell’s unique collaborative style feels even more powerful in its construct. Shining a light on the inequality inherent in Australia’s education and welfare systems. By allowing the viewer to walk in the footsteps of 10-year-old Dujuan Hoosan, an Arrernte Aboriginal boy living in Alice Springs.
Dujuan is failing at school, his young life caught between the comfort of his Aboriginal home and an education system built on white colonial values. His intelligence and vibrant personality clouded by a need to ‘be free’ from the perceived constraints of school life. His mother and grandmother endlessly searching the streets late at night as Dujuan takes flight. Desperate to embrace his family and culture while equally frustrated and entrapped by a wider community built on differing beliefs. His cultural needs dismissed by a Country that sees its birth as being the arrival of British ships.
As we follow Dujuan through the trials and tribulations of emerging self-identity, culture and independence. Newell allows him to take the reins in filming, interviewing family members while exploring his own values and beliefs. Consequently allowing the comfort of his family life to interface with the isolation of a society that places little value on his identity. Ultimately taking us through two different schools, where staff seem to lack an understanding of his cultural needs. With his behaviour simply labeled as problematic or destructive with little thought as to why or how this could be changed. Meanwhile, his mother and grandmother fear his possible arrest in a state where many of their young sit in juvenile detention. Their eventual decision to send him to live with his father in Spring Creek made out of love and necessity.
Newell provides us with no easy answers to the journey we take alongside Durjuan and his family. Instead opting to open doors to conversation and reflection rather than provide broad-brush solutions. In effect creating a stunning and deeply personal insight into forced cultural assimilation. One that uncovers the division and segregation embedded in Australian social constructs. While embracing the need to rethink an education system that leads to exclusion and segregation. Ultimately paving the way to a criminal justice system built on division and oppression. With Dujuan’s journey not only challenging Australian institutional discrimination. But also the need to further explore the interface between criminal justice, school, and social oppression worldwide.
Director: Maya Newell
Official Website for In My Blood it Runs