Australia, 1955

Courtesy Chauvel Film Enterprises Pty Ltd

Jedda is held in the collection of the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia

Film First Nations On display

As Australia’s first feature film with Aboriginal lead roles, Jedda is beloved by many First Peoples. It was one of the first times we saw stories of our people explored and it’s lauded for its representation of “so many Aboriginal men and women, girls and boys on the screen”. But despite being a first for First Peoples representation, Jedda also reflects a deeply problematic time in Australian history characterised by formal policies of assimilation and the forced removal of Indigenous children from their families by the government.

The tale of an Aboriginal woman torn between her white upbringing and her heritage, Jedda is the first Australian-made colour feature and first Australian film nominated for the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or. It stars Arrernte actress Rosalie Kunoth-Monks (credited as Ngarla Kunoth) as Jedda and Tiwi actor Robert Tudawali as Marbuck. Due to the film’s popularity, and a rising interest in Aboriginal ‘kitsch’ and culture, Kunoth-Monks and Jedda became entwined. But unlike Tudawali, who had other roles, Kunoth-Monks never acted again and became an advocate for First Peoples in Australia.

Curator Notes

Find out more about Jedda with these resources from the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA).

The National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA) has numerous resources, including articles and videos, on Jedda that offer a detailed look at the restoration of the film in preparation for the NFSA's DVD release, how music contributes to the storytelling, and analysis of the most famous scenes, including the discovery of the infant Jedda, how Jedda's daydreaming exposes her inner turmoil and the heartbreaking conclusion.

Rosalie Kunoth-Monks passionately and defiantly responds to Peter Coleman's critique of John Pilger's documentary film 'Utopia' and that assimilation is not the answer.

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In ACMI's collection

On display until

16 February 2031

ACMI: Gallery 1



Charles Chauvel

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The Story of the Moving Image → Moving Australia → MA-10. Ahead of their time → MA-10-C02


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