"I'm not black. I'm not white. I'm sort of in the middle. I feel like I don't know myself." says a young Zach Doomadgee in the documentary feature 'Zach's Ceremony', of which he is the focus. A fly on the wall style documentary produced and also featuring father Alec Doomadgee, cameras followed Zach for several years, from the age of 10 to 18, documenting a journey from boyhood to manhood, and his struggle to find the solid ground of identity growing up between two worlds. Alec has said of the idea, ""It all started because I wanted to show the beauty of our culture and our people. To also show that one of the things we need to do is take control of who we are, and show how strong we are and how our culture is still alive and vibrant in today’s society. I also wanted to show that we can live in both worlds and adapt to this new western society that is around us now."
The reality of modern life without any kind of initiation marker or male leadership can be confusing and a young Zach, who above other interests for a boy of his age, being with friends and learning about his Aboriginal culture, also has a fascination and interest in what it means to 'go through ceremony', an insight in to the need for story and the marking of time for one's development. WIll it be something that will help him to understand himself and his place in the world? "The initiation ceremony will give him the strength and foundation he needs to survive in this society, because once he goes through that he doesn't have to justify himself to anybody." Says Alec in one scene.
We also see an interesting dynamic between father and son play out in front of the cameras, at times uncomfortably, with Alec intent on passing on knowledge to his son and Zach at times firmly committed and devoted to his culture and the grounding that it provides for him, yet also being caught in the desires of life as a teenager, wanting to spend time with girls, without cameras following him around.
Whilst some have made light of a significant lack of female representation within the documentary - it feels that this is perhaps a crucial part of what makes this such an impactful watch. The father figure is so often a young boy's first hero, and in this case, it's very clear that Alec is very much this to Zach. It's clear in the moments where harsh words are exchanged and in the moments where there is a loving gaze and a guiding gesture. The impact that the father/son relationship has on the way that a man will carry himself through life can be hard to quantify, in Zach's Ceremony we are given an insight into how this may play out and it will be interesting to see if there is follow up footage to further explore In what is arguably, a far too rare subject matter.
Zach's Ceremony will premiere on NITV Tonight @ 8:30pm. It will also be available on catch-up On Demand.
A young Zach Doomadgee