By Lily Meek
28th October 2019

The emu has many symbolic meanings within Indigenous culture. It represents direction, guidance, protection and, most commonly recognised, justice. Notably, it also can’t walk backwards - a continued representation of positive change, of only moving forward. Nothing could be more appropriate than the continued use of the emu within this beautiful film. It is a layered metaphor, that in partnership with the allegorical nature of the movie, creates a cemented, clear and important message. This is ‘Emu Runner’ - the demand for change that society needs.

‘Emu Runner’ is a film directed by Imogen Thomas that follows an Aboriginal family’s response to the death of their mother. It particularly focuses on the story of Gem (newcomer Rhae-Kye), the youngest daughter, who continues to encounter an emu on her journeys. The narrative interweaves themes of death and grieving, whilst also underpinning attitudes of discrimination.


The story works hard to portray how white fellas can often misinterpret situations due to existing prejudice towards Indigenous people. The film’s conclusion on this topic is poignant, promoting a willingness to learn and be involved in the lives of First Nation people from White Australians, as they seek to free themselves from their preconceptions. Its navigation of the relationship between both parties and how to overcome present issues is powerful, and stands as a declaration for the importance of film, storytelling and education of culture.

The film's largest strength is its message and ability to carry a parable for the lives of Indigenous people. It would be unwise to take this film on at face value. Sure, the acting is a little naïve and maybe the story, at times, lacks substance - but wouldn’t you rather watch a film that educates you on the oldest culture in the world, than some "same-old" action film again? Sometimes we need to recognise that films aren’t just about being entertained - they’re tools for building empathy, education, recognition and understanding. ‘Emu Runner’ teaches lessons of totems, ceremony, culture and most importantly compassion for the way Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are treated. I enjoyed its charm and amateurish qualities - in some ways, they provided the film with a childlike innocence, reflecting Gem. This counteracts the harsh themes the film deals with, maintaining a good balance of emotion.

The film advocates for a response of White Australians to personally and actively seek interest in Indigenous people, stories and culture - and watching this film can be the start.

The cinematography is incredible, boasting beautiful moments from Brewarrina country. What’s more wonderful about this film is the community forged within it. Imogen Thomas worked hard to collaborate with the Brewarrina community to create authenticity - and it shows. This film supports the creation and telling of Indigenous stories, by Indigenous people, with Indigenous actors. It’s so important to watch these films and open our minds and condition our hearts to lessons unknown. The film advocates for a response of White Australians to personally and actively seek interest in Indigenous people, stories and culture - and watching this film can be the start.

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