Walkabout with Satellite Boy ........................
The Bungle Bungles star in Satellite Boy, writes Caris Bizzaca
IN 1969, a 16-year-old David Gulpilil was cast in a film called Walkabout.
More than 40 years later, Gulpilil, now a famous actor and respected Aboriginal elder, found himself acting alongside 10-year-old Cameron Wallaby as he made his own debut in walkabout film Satellite Boy.
‘‘There was this lovely feeling of coming full circle,’’ says director Catriona McKenzie of seeing the two together.
McKenzie can remember watching Walkabout as a little girl and to have Gulpilil come on board, after she flew to Darwin and explained the story to him, was a dream come true.
‘‘For me it was like working with (Robert) De Niro or Meryl Streep or Jodie Foster or one of those great actors,’’ she says.
Satellite Boy is McKenzie’s first feature film, a move which felt like ‘‘coming home’’ after working successfully for years on television shows such as Redfern Now.
The light-hearted film, about a boy (Wallaby) who goes on a modern-day walkabout with his best friend to save his home from destruction, also marks another first – and not just for McKenzie. Satellite Boy is the first movie to have been filmed in the Bungle Bungle Ranges in Western Australia, where giant orange and black domes rear up from the earth.
‘‘Baz (Luhrmann) did aerials, but we actually were on the ground,’’ McKenzie says, referring to Luhrmann’s epic Australia.
To gain permission to film there, it took months of listening and talking with the traditional owners. When it came time to film, the Bungle Bungles’ heritage listing created a problem.
‘‘We had to walk everything in,’’ McKenzie says. ‘‘You couldn’t drive anything in.’’
Vehicles weren’t allowed within 2km of the Bungle Bungles, forcing the crew to carry in all the equipment, from cameras to water, on canvas stretchers.
The task was particularly difficult with the mercury soaring to incredibly high temperatures.
‘‘The soles of people’s feet, the gravel was melting them because it was that hot on the ground,’’ she says. ‘‘I think a human being needs two litres of water per person per day. We needed eight litres of water per person per day. People were fainting and it was really hard going, but no one complained.’’
McKenzie says the process, while challenging, was ultimately a rewarding one.
‘‘We take an audience into a place not many people get to see so it’s pretty amazing.’’
Satellite Boy opens today.
Old Jagamarra (David Gulpilil) and his grandson Pete (Cameron Wallaby) in a scene from Catriona McKenzie’s film Satellite Boy.