Indigenous film-maker breathes new life into an age-old tale with latest short-series, Robbie Hood.
Jennifer Scherer

10 Jul 2019 - 6:13 PM  UPDATED 10 Jul 2019 - 6:13 PM

It's an archetype that has sustained generations: a rebel of the system steals from the rich and gives to the poor. Now Indigenous film writer-director Dylan River (Nulla Nulla, Ward One, Finding Maawirrangga) has given us his take on Robin Hood, and in doing so has created an ode to Central Australia with his new six-part short series, Robbie Hood.

Set in River's hometown of Alice Springs, Robbie Hood tackles racial stereotypes and poverty with the cheek and cynical wit of those who have grown up in the Northern Territory outback.

"For me, this is definitely a reflection on youth in the Northern Territory and just Aboriginal youth in general," River told NITV News.

"Primarily I wanted this series to be for youth to watch and for kids like [the main character] Robbie to watch and say, 'well, you know we do have a good heart, we do do things with the best intentions, we are cheeky, we are naughty and we do get a slap on the wrist but - we’re not bad kids.'"

A "film for change"

Following the life of main character Robbie, a precocious teenager who is guided by the moral compass of his late mother but is neglected by his self-absorbed father, Robbie Hood is a "film for change."

Robbie, flanked by his two best friends Blue and Little Johnny, stands strong against racism to challenge the socio-economic divide which plagues Alice Springs.

The themes of a quest for justice and a pride in Indigenous culture are prevalent throughout River's body of work.

"My parents have instilled in me the importance and power of storytelling," River said. "I really love writing something and seeing the film gestate, come into fruition.

"When you get to the end of the process and you reflect on when it was just an idea or a twinkle in your eye - that's really, really rewarding." 

In each 10-minute episode, Robbie Hood is inspired by events throughout River's own life and that of his family or friends.

"The idea [for the series] started when I was making a film with Tommy Lewis ... we were sitting around one night telling stories and he told me about a young fella from his community near Katherine," River told NITV News.

"This fella broke into the local shop, stole all the power cards and gave them out to the everyone in the community so that they would have power.

"I reacted to that: 'that’s Robin Hood!' And Tommy said, 'yeah, it is.'" 

A love for Alice Springs

Describing the series as a "big collection of things from Alice", the narrative doesn't romanticise life in the desert town.

"The love that I have for that town is from being a child," River said. "Being older now, there’s a lot more love and hate and complication, being able to understand the world a bit more.

"But when I was a kid, it was the best place ever - I hated going on holidays because I just wanted to be in Alice Springs, riding my BMX bike and my motorbike, hanging out with my mates."

When asked how his childhood translates into the film, River said it's all about "the little things".

“Like in Summer, trying to navigate your way across town with no shoes and you have to run from shade to shade on the burning hot bitumen.

"Whipping around town on BMX bikes ... or cattle duffing and cows in bathtubs which are things that happened to my Uncle."

All of the above feature in the short-series, even the cow in a bathtub.

"I hope that people watch this and see the child in themselves, the good in themselves," River told NITV News.

"I hope that the rest of Australia sees that and reflects on youth crime or crime in general and realise that people do these things for a reason, very rarely people are doing these things because they’re a bad person."

 – Robbie Hood premieres on NITV (Ch34), Friday July 12 at 9pm.

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