DVD Reissue: The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith ****

By Dennis Hartley

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The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith– Industrial Entertainment DVD

I had just about abandoned all hope that this 1978 sleeper from Australian writer-director Fred Schepisi would ever see the light of day on DVD, until I was pleasantly surprised to see it pop up on the “new release” rack of my favorite neighborhood independent video store last month (I quickly snapped up the last copy). Adapted from Thomas Keneally’s novel (which was inspired by true events) this semi-epic tale concerns the travails of the title character, played with explosive intensity by non-professional actor Tommy Lewis. Jimmie is a half-caste Aboriginal, living in New South Wales in 1900.

Jimmie struggles between the pull of his native culture and the insistence of white sponsors who want him to “do the right thing” and assimilate into “civilized” society. This is easier said than done; it seems that the harder he tries to please everyone, the more he is shunned by all. Jimmie sublimates his reaction to the enveloping systemic racism and roiling inner conflicts for too long, which eventually leads to a shocking explosion of violence. This is raw, powerful and disturbing stuff (not for the squeamish), but well worth your time. The DVD includes a recent interview with Lewis.

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