By Andrew Parker, at Hot Docs
A wholly original and impactful look at growing up Indigenous in Australia today, Maya Newell’s equally artful and emotional In My Blood It Runs is one of the standout world premieres at this year’s festival.
In My Blood It Runs follows Dujuan Hoosan, a ten year old boy of Arrernte and Garrwa descent, living in Northern Australia with his mother, Megan. Fascinated and energized by his Aboriginal roots, the fun loving Dujuan might have a future as a spiritual healer among his people. In his community, Dujuan comes to life, but in his decidedly colonialist school, he’s failing, with teachers openly mocking indigenous ways of life in the classroom. Dujuan grows sad and frustrated, with his failing grades taking a toll on his self esteem. He starts going out late at night, getting into trouble, and skipping school, leading himself down a dark path during a time when heavily armed police presence in indigenous communities is increasing and the percentage of Aboriginal youth in juvenile detention centres is a frightening 100%.
Crediting Dujuan and his family members as co-directors and collaborators, Newell (Gayby Baby) lets her indigenous subjects largely tell their own stories. Newell provides them with cameras to capture their everyday lives and ask each other questions that they might hesitate to answer if they were posed by outsiders. This approach gives In My Blood It Runs a pronounced and confident degree of authenticity. It’s a great looking film, and Newell and her team have done an outstanding job of assembling such a culturally specific and politically relevant story, but it wouldn’t be as impactful without the direct participation of Dujuan’s family to guide it.
In My Blood It Runs isn’t only a stark, but frequently loving and hopeful look at the plight of Indigenous peoples in Northern Australia, but also an examination of how negative educational reinforcement takes a toll on young people. It’s impossible to not feel great sadness for Dujuan, which makes his turn towards a bleaker future all the more heart-wrenching to behold.