In Between Songs follows an Australian Aboriginal family's struggle to survive. Djalu Gurruwiwi, Yolngu elder, and his sister, Dhanggal, strive to restore eroding tradition. While shepherding their Galpu clan through economic, environmental, and social pressures, they search desperately for new custodians to safeguard their priceless musical legacy. Emmy award winner and Oscar nominated actor/activist James Cromwell narrates this stirring feature documentary.
Within the small Australian Aboriginal community of Nhulunbuy, Djalu Gurruwiwi, famed traditional didjeridu craftsman and player, alongside his sister, Dhanggal, strain to keep Galpu clan traditions safe from numerous internal and external forces. Every day, the pressures on the Yolngu living in the Northern Territory’s Arnhem Land region seem to mount.
When Djalu’s son, Larry, proves to have limited interest in continuing the clan or instrument’s legacy, the elders are forced to turn their attention toward the Gurruwiwi grandchildren. Newly initiated boys, however, with limited long term vision and maturity, often fall victim to the peer pressures of drugs and alcohol. The modern distractions of computers and video games, made available to them even in this remote community, compound their lack of drive and consistent adherence to traditional life.
Complicating matters is the multi-billion dollar Rio Tinto bauxite mine whose growth has mushroomed over the last fifty years. Present demand for bauxite, the principal ore in Aluminum production, has brought significant wealth and infrastructure to the small town, but very few resources or employment opportunities ever filter down to the indigenous landowners. Alcohol and drug use from mining personnel frequently spills over into the traditional clan groups. Furthermore, the visible and highly lethal environmental impacts from the mine’s presence will certainly have lasting implications for generations to come.
Djalu and Dhanggal’s strategy to move the family out to traditional homelands deep into the bush is complicated by the limited infrastructure and lack of formal schooling for the youth. The costs involved for transportation and supplies in this remote region greatly diminish the plan’s feasibility, however.
Additionally, industry prospectors continuously pursue the Yolngu for more land leases, no matter how remote, leaving virtually no traditional land untouched. Recent visits to the Gurruwiwi’s homeland at Mata Mata places further demands on the family’s dwindling cultural resources.
Despite the strain of shepherding their clan through economic, environmental, cultural and social pressures, Djalu and Dhanggal Gurruwiwi remain firmly resolved in their mission to maintain tradition. With unprecedented access, In Between Songs closely examines this family’s life and culture as they fight maintain balance between the ancient and modern world.
Emmy award winner and Oscar nominated actor/activist James Cromwell narrates this stirring feature documentary.