Why this Bruce Lee film has been dubbed in an Aboriginal language

Bruce Lee’s classic film “Fist of Fury” is the first to ever be dubbed in the Aboriginal language of Noongar Daa, with the hope that it will spark new interest in the endangered language.

Fist of Fury is the first film dubbed in Aboriginal Noongar Daa language.

Fist of Fury is the first film dubbed in Aboriginal Noongar Daa language. Source: Perth Festival

It’s a 1970s kung-fu classic being played on the big screen in a way that's never been heard before.

Bruce Lee’s Fist of Fury is the first-ever movie to be dubbed in Noongar Daa, an Aboriginal language from southwest Western Australia.

For Fist of Fury Noongar Daa director Kylie Bracknell, also known as Kaarljilba Kaardn, the language project is deeply personal.

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She learned to speak Noongar Daa from her grandmother’s cousins as a teenager who “maintained the conversational style of Noongar language.”

Kylie Bracknell, also known as Kaarljilba Kaardn.
Kylie Bracknell, also known as Kaarljilba Kaardn, is the director of Fist of Fury Noongar Daa and is committed to language revitalisation. Source: Supplied


“In a world where English is incredibly dominant in every aspect of our lives, we are clinging to this piece of identity in the way that we speak,” she told SBS News.

“I grew up with a peppering of [Noongar language] through my childhood … but it wasn’t until my grandfather passed away when I was about 13 that I really took it a little more seriously.



“I endeavoured to spend as much time as I could with [my grandmother's cousins] and I was grateful for the mentorship that I got from my grandmother to sit with those wise senior women.”

It’s this love for the Noongar Daa language that motivated her to translate the film.

“It's actually my love of my language and the life mission that has been bestowed upon me by my grandparents and extended community members to keep it spoken,” she said.

“It would have been cool to have something like this [film dub] around back then … we didn’t have these things around when we were kids, so it’s time now.”

Some of those involved in the making of Fist of Fury Noongar Daa at the opening night in Perth.
Some of those involved in the making of Fist of Fury Noongar Daa at the opening night in Perth. Source: Supplied/Clint Bracknell.


The classic film by Hong Kong film star Bruce Lee was chosen because of its resonance with her community, many identifying with the non-Anglo superhero on the big screen.

“There are so many things that are relatable for us, not just in the Hong Kong natives being oppressed and colonised by another group, but also in our mannerisms, the way that we care for each other, the way that we unite to look after each other, the quest for justice.”

Inspired by overseas language preservation

The project was inspired by the Navajo translations of Star Wars: A New Hope in 2013, Finding Nemo and the Clint Eastwood western, A Fistful of Dollars, which is set to be released next week.



For those dedicated to preserving Indigenous languages, like Dhunghutti and Biripi man Craig Ritchie, these dubs are a “powerful statement”.

“It demonstrates that our languages are not just historical curiosities or artefacts that are part of a bygone era, but are living languages that are part of the way that First Nations people around the country live their lives,” said Mr Ritchie, who is CEO at the Australian Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies.

“Language is more than about communication, it’s an expression of who we are and an expression of identity.

“Words are carriers of ideas and so for us as First Nations people, preserving and activating our languages is a really important to creating a sense of belonging but also to mobilise the deep knowledge that First Nations people have of living in this place.”

Kylie Bracknell directing a member of the voice-over cast during the making of Fist of Fury Noongar Daa.
Kylie Bracknell directing a member of the voice-over cast during the making of Fist of Fury Noongar Daa. Source: Perth Festival, Screenshot


With 2022 kicking off the United Nations' decade of action for Indigenous languages, data shows that at least 40 per cent of the 7,000 languages used worldwide are at some level of endangerment.

Experts say Indigenous languages are particularly at risk because many are not taught at school or used in the public sphere.

“Of the 250 languages that were here on the continent at the time the British arrived, about 120 are still spoken in some form or another,” Mr Ritchie said.



“About 90 per cent of them are at risk … but we know there are about 30 Indigenous languages around the country that are in the process of being revived.”

Commitment to preserve language

For Clint Bracknell, a shared love and interest in Noongar Daa language brought him and his wife Kylie together.

“Someone I worked with tried to set us up because we were the only two younger people that she knew who spoke a bit of language,” he told SBS News.

They've since collaborated on the Noongar Shakespeare Project, a full-length adaptation and translation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth that's titled Hecate.

Kylie Bracknell and Clint Bracknell at the opening of Fist of Fury Noongar Daa in Perth.
Kylie Bracknell and Clint Bracknell at the opening of Fist of Fury Noongar Daa in Perth. Source: Supplied/Clint Bracknell.


A celebration of language, Dr Bracknell said Fist of Fury Noongar Daa is a continuation of keeping an endangered language alive.

“If you drive around Western Australia and know half of the place names or know half of the trees, or if you've been to the island and seen the quokkas and call them that, then you're talking Noongar language or at least are using Noongar words,” Dr Bracknell said.

“So that idea of a speaker, a fluent speaker, is the language used, is it not used, is a grey area - but that said, to walk down the street and have a conversation in Noongar is pretty rare.

“This film is part of a broader effort to move Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages into new domains for being spoken and being heard.”

Fist of Fury Noongar Daa on Wednesday 10 November and Sunday 14 November.


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5 min read
Published 10 November 2021 at 2:09pm
By Jennifer Scherer
Source: SBS News