'Jedda' returns to the Cannes Film Festival 60 years on

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Amid the glitz and glamour of the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, an iconic Australian picture is marking a major milestone.

In 1955 an ambitious story about an Indigenous Australian girl's search for identity was selected to compete for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.
 
"Jedda", by director Charles Chauvel, became the first Australian film to have a chance at capturing arguably cinema's biggest prize. 
 
It ended up going to Delbert Mann for the US romantic drama "Marty". But "Jedda" had already made its mark.
 
"It was the first Australian film to ever be made in colour," explains Chauvel's grandson Ric Chauvel-Carlsson.
 
"What makes it memorable is my grandfather's great love of the Australian bush and his artistic expression in bringing "Jedda" to not only Australian audiences, but to international audiences," he said.
 
"He took many risks in making this film financially, and in the end was told he would never make a film in Australia again because he was using Aboriginal actors in the lead."
 
"Jedda" tells the story of an Aboriginal girl in central Australia who's raised by a white family following the death of her mother.
 
After years of being shielded from her heritage, Jedda (played by Rosalie Kunoth-Monks) is kidnapped by a renegade tribesman, Marbuck (Robert Tudawali). 
 
The combination of being shunned by his tribe and running from Jedda's family sees Marbuck slowly go insane, leading to a spectacular and shocking conclusion.
 
Now, 60 years after French critics selected "Jedda" to compete at Cannes, Ric Chauvel-Carlsson has held a special screening as part of the Cannes Cinephiles collection.
 
The audience included Australia's Ambassador to France Steven Brady, and the President of Cinema Antipodes Bernard Bories.
 
Mr Bories said "Jedda" remains a powerful film in its own right, showing audiences around the world a unique side of Australia culture.
 
"It was a shock to discover this beautiful story with these Aboriginal people in this great landscape," he said.
 
"So I think it was not so difficult to select because you know you have a great film."
 
But for Rosalie Kunoth-Monks, the film has a much more personal meaning. She told SBS she remains proud of her involvement in "Jedda", whose resonance with the stolen generation adds another dimension.
 
"Our first nation's children were taken," she said. ""Jedda" has a softer edge on it where her mother dies. But even to this day children are brutally removed from their mothers and their tribal people. 
 
"And I hope somewhere along the line they look and understand it's deeper than just the storyline itself." 
 
John Doggett-Williams directed the documentary "The Big Picture: The Films of Charles Chauvel", which will also screen at Cannes. He said the impact Chauvel made at home and abroad with "Jedda" remains signficant.
 
"They selected it not because of Hollywood hoopla or large budgets, but because of the purity of the storyline," he said. "It says a lot about the depth of French culture to be able to recognise a story, even in a way that Australians themselves don't really value their own cinema."
Source: SBS

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