In My Blood It Runs – colonialism, oppression and the need to fly free

In My Blood it Runs: Official Website.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Darkness sits at the heart of every criminal justice system worldwide, an inescapable truth deeply embedded within the walls of every juvenile detention centre and prison. What is this darkness, I hear you ask? It is the link between those who suffer oppression and those who find themselves incarcerated. In 2016, media reports related to the abuse and humiliation of young people at the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre in Northern Australia further highlighted this darkness. Don Dale was an establishment inhabited by young Aboriginal people, all lacking a voice or the community power to challenge their abuse. The plight of these young people only further highlighted the link between institutional discrimination, educational failure, and colonialism in Australian society. In her new documentary, In My Blood it Runs, Maya Newell explores these themes through the eyes of a young boy and his family.

Newell is no stranger to profoundly personal filmmaking, allowing those she follows to steer the narrative actively. In Richard and Gayby Baby, her person-centred filmmaking approach challenged the viewer by allowing the individual to lead the camera while never seeking to drive the audience’s opinion to the subject matter. In My Blood It Runs follows a similar path by highlighting the inequality and oppression that continues to sit at the heart of Australia’s education, welfare and criminal justice systems. Here, we follow 10-year-old Dujuan Hoosan, an Arrernte Aboriginal boy living in Alice Springs, as he navigates a world that works against him.

Dujuan is failing at school, and his young life is caught between the comfort of his Aboriginal home and an education system built on colonial values. Here, his intelligence and vibrant personality are held in a spirit that needs to ‘fly free’ of the constraints of white Australian culture. Dujuan vanishes for hours, constantly running, while his mother and grandmother search the streets to find him. But Dujuan’s anger doesn’t sit at home, where he embraces his culture; it sits in a community where he feels trapped and dismissed.

As we follow Dujuan through the trials and tribulations of his emerging identity, culture and independence, Newell allows him to take the reins by interviewing his family members and exploring his values and beliefs. Here, the comfort of his family life is coupled with a deep sense of isolation as he journeys through two schools, his behaviour labelled as problematic and destructive. Meanwhile, his mother and grandmother fear his possible arrest in a state where many of their young people sit in juvenile detention, their final response one of heartbreak and necessity.

There are no easy answers to the journey we take alongside Durjuan and his family, each conversation and reflection opening the door to further discussion and debate. The result is a deeply personal story of cultural assimilation, as seen through the eyes of a boy whose only wish is to be free. Newell allows Dujuan and his family to unpick the segregation and colonial oppression that still haunts Australia. Dujuan’s journey challenges Australian institutional discrimination and the social systems that continue to embed a sense of difference and failure from a young age.

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