THE Byron Bay Film Festival opens on October 14 with a feature documentary about an Aboriginal father and his son, and the lad’s initiation into manhood through ancient tribal ceremonies.
Zach’s Ceremony is both an intensely personal look at Zachariah Doomadgee and his father Alec’s sometimes fraught relationship and a celebration of the profound and joyful spiritual practices of the Gangalidda, Waanyi and Garawa people.
The film traces Zach’s evolution from a serious 10-year-old boy expressing his wish to learn about cultural practices on his father’s country, through his teens and into an independent young man.
Living in Sydney, a pale-skinned black kid copping racist jibes from both sides, Zachariah longs to become an elder – but he’s an adolescent, chafing under the heavy yoke of his dad’s well-meant guidance.
Their scenes together have an uncomfortable intimacy: love, expectation, anger surface as the universal father/son theme is played out.
In the city, Zach faces the usual temptations, including the bottle and the bong. In the country, the whole mood changes: there’s space, peace, family ties, and a meaningful role for him.
Alec Doomadgee is a broadcaster, boxer, cultural advocate and activist, and leader of his clan in the Gulf of Carpentaria.
The film was his concept, and much of it was shot at their home, none of it rehearsed or scripted.
Alec wanted the work to reveal the beauty of Aboriginal spirituality to a wider world and it achieves that goal –in the authenticity of its family scenes and interviews, and in the excursions into country, to meet the lore men and watch the ceremonies unfold – rare and uplifting footage.
“I wanted to leave people on a high; to awaken and inspire them,” Alec said.
Tickets are on sale now for BBFF’s Gala Opening Night: film, food, and festivities on the carpet.