Brown Paper Bag long shot

Brown Paper Bag learning resource

Brown Paper Bag is a 16 minute short film that tells the story of a young Aboriginal boy who discovers the magic of reading thanks to a session at school with acclaimed author and storyteller Boori Monty Pryor.

The film explores themes of culture, community and identity. 

Brown Paper Bag is produced by Youthworx. Find out more about Youthworx's incredible work and commitment to empowering young people at risk.

Year levels: Years 4 - 6

Curriculum: Intercultural understanding, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultures, Media, The Arts, Languages, English

Exploring Brown Paper Bag together

Watch the film together as a class or on your own devices.

Share and compare immediate responses to the film -- single word answers are fine.
In pairs, dig a bit deeper. Discuss: 

  • how the film made you feel and why. 
  • what you learned.
  • what the story made you think about.
  • elements of the story you would like to know more about, or that you found confusing.

Share your feelings, discoveries and questions in a class discussion.

The story

Brown Paper Bag is a short film and tells its story in just over 15 minutes. The best short films are usually based on one really strong story idea. 

Work with a partner and fill in the blanks with what happens in Brown Paper Bag.

Once upon a time there was ________________________.

Every day, ___________________________.

One day ____________________________.

Because of that, __________________________.

Because of that, ________________________.

Until finally __________________________.

The beginning

  • How does the film begin? (You might like to go back and have a look and listen as a reminder.)
  • Why do you think the filmmakers chose to begin the film in this way? Don't just focus on what is happening but also on the way that the opening scene is filmed.
  • Do you think this was an effective way of telling a story?
  • What does the music add to this scene? What does it tell us about Boori and the impact he is going to have on Jayden?
  • What other films have you seen that begin with someone travelling towards the place where the rest of the story will play out?

Meeting Jayden

  • How is Jayden introduced?

Look at the image (below).

  • What is actor Khan James-Parker communicating to viewers about the way Jayden is feeling?
Jayden Brown Paper Bag

Brown Paper Bag. Credit: Youthworx

  • When Jayden was sent to time-out, did you think he had been there before? Why or why not? 
  • What are some of the ways that we learn about Jayden's unhappiness at school?
  • Why might Jayden be finding it hard to fit in at his new school? 
  • How does the principal, Mr Broughton, show he understands why Jayden is struggling to belong?
  • Do you know the word for when people are able to put themselves on someone else's shoes and imagine how they are feeling?
  • Have you ever felt left out or out of place? Can you think of a time when you have felt like this and someone has shown they understand how you are feeling? Or maybe you have helped someone else to feel that they belong? Explain. 

Storytelling with Boori

In Brown Paper Bag, Boori Monty Pryor is playing himself.

  • Could you tell that he was a real-life author and not an actor? If so, how could you tell?
  • Why do you think the filmmakers decided to build the story around one of Boori's talks?
  • What are some of the techniques Boori uses to encourage the students to listen and connect with his stories?

While all of the children enjoy Boori's talk, it makes a really big impression on Jayden.

  • How do we know this?

The brown paper bag

  • What is the purpose of the brown paper bag?
  • Why do you think Jayden hides the book from the people at school and his mum?
  • Have you ever loved a book so much that you haven't been able to stop reading it, or have wanted to read it again and again? Can you explain what was so special about it? 

The ending

  • Did you find the ending satisfying? Why? Why not?
  • Why has Jayden's mother told him that "libraries are only for white people"? What do you think she meant?
  • Have you ever felt uncomfortable and that you don't belong somewhere or that a particular experience or activity is something that others can do, but not you? Explain.
  • What are some of the things that make us feel we don't belong?

Sometimes when we feel a sense of belonging, we can make others feel like outsiders.

  • What are some of the ways we can look out for others and be more inclusive?
  • Why do you think the very last words we hear come from the end of Boori Monty Prior's book My Girragundji?
  • As a class, rewatch the ending and write down the words from the story, Discuss how these words relate to the story told in the film. What could these words mean for Jayden? 
  • Think about the superhero figure that Jayden drew during time-out. How might this relate to the story of the girragundji and its ongoing protection?

Culture and belonging

  • What are some of the topics and ideas that Boori describes in his stories?

We hear Jayden read from Boori's book The Binna Binna Man and  My Girragundji . Both of these stories come from from Boori's country in North Queensland. 

  • Why do you think Jayden finds Boori's stories so special? 

Australia's First Peoples are made up of many different and distinct groups, each with their own culture, customs, language and laws. However, many of Australia's First Peoples also use Aboriginal English to express identity and connection. 

  • What examples of Aboriginal English did you notice in Brown Paper Bag?
  • What does Jayden mean when he says to Mr Broughton that Boori must have been a deadly baby?
  • Why do you think Jayden finds the Aboriginal English in Boori's stories so appealing?

What next?

  • Find Boori's stories in your library and read them as a class.
  • Invite a local Elder to your school and discover stories about the country you live on.
  • As a class, discuss ways to welcome newcomers and to make sure that everyone in your class feels a sense of belonging.