My father is a high-school English teacher, who always told me that no matter the text, no matter the medium, stories would always, whether intended or not, hold a mirror up to nature.
They look at the world around us and shine the light on pieces we may not see because they’re too familiar or normal. So, when watching or reading, one must always take a moment to think – what is this saying about us?
Emu Runner holds the mirror, very bravely, up to nature and reflects a truth for all of Australia.
A story of survival and resilience, family and culture, grief and love, Emu Runner highlights the stark reality of systematic oppression and racism that bubbles and breathes in remote and regional communities.
Filmed deep on the dry, sandy, plains of Brewarrina which is nestled on the banks of the Barwon river in New South Wales – the home of the oldest man-made structure in the world, the Ngunnhu fishtraps.
On Ngemba, Ualarai, Marrawarri and Wailwan land, the story of Gemma Daniels, played by newcomer Rhae-Kye Waites, comes alive.
After the sudden and tragic death of her mother, Darlene, the family begins to struggle.
Darlene’s goodbye is filled with family, triangle egg sandwiches and country music, but is quickly overshadowed by a visit from the local policeman Stan, Underbelly’s Rob Carlton.
With the weight of grief and the pressure to keep going on their shoulders, cracks begin to appear. Gem’s older brother begins drinking heavily and gets involved with dangerous people, and her father Jay Jay, played by The Sapphires’ Wayne Blair, struggles to keep his kids on the right path.
During the last moments Gem spent with her mother, she learnt about Ngemba culture and their connection to the emu, and the stories of her Aunts and Uncles chasing the birds but never catching them.
Gem tracks down the male emu they saw that day. Bringing him food she steals from supermarket bins, backyards and grocery bags left unattended, their relationship builds.
She begins missing school; her brother ends up in hospital and Jay Jay is locked up overnight.
In the care of a child protection officer, the awkward but passionate Heidi Goodell played by Georgia Blizzard, Gem is taken to a temporary placement before being removed to another home.
However, the pair hit trouble and end up spending the evening together. Gem teaches Ms Goodell about the emu that gives her connection to her mother, her country, her mob and her old people and the one that lines the sky above.
A story of strength, power and culture, Emu Runner shines a spotlight on the realities of life for Aboriginal families living in regional and remote communities.
Emu Runner speaks to the quick-to-judge decisions of authorities, the dismantling of families, the disconnection of children and the forced removal that families across the country continue to experience.
But what rises above most, is the resilience and the culture that breathes in our young ones.
Gem Daniels, although going through huge life changes, finds her power in her totem, nurtures and cares for the emu and through that, finds her feet.
Emu Runner directed by Imogen Thomas and created in consultation with Ngemba woman Frayne Barker from Brewarrina, is a tale that will leave you with a lump in your throat but your heart pumping with pride.
It’s a tale that asks you to open your eyes, your minds and your hearts – something every powerful story does.
Emu Runner debuts in select cinemas on November 7.
To view the trailer for Emu Runner, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7TqkvUADEI.
By Rachael Knowles