Colonialism is a war that began hundreds of years ago and never ended. Its modern tactics and its weapons are noted with precision in the ferocious documentary, “In My Blood It Runs.”
The film follows an Arrernte Aboriginal family in Alice Springs, Australia, focusing on Dujuan, a 10-year-old boy, and his mother Megan, as they navigate his education. In plain vérité style, the documentary exposes how language and school are corrupted to become bludgeons for the system built by settlers.
At home, Dujuan is a gifted healer who speaks three languages, and he is a gentle comfort to his mother. But at school, his teachers are white, and they mock Aboriginal spiritual beliefs while teaching a whitewashed version of colonial history. Dujuan is disengaged and angry, and his grades, attendance and behavior suffer. Megan’s fear is that Dujuan could be taken from her and placed in juvenile detention, and as Dujuan’s aunt warns him, if he goes to detention, he’ll either leave it for jail or a coffin.
The director Maya Newell gains access to both worlds that Dujuan traverses — home and school — and the trust that she seems to have built with all participants is vital to the success of this film. In both settings, her subjects rarely acknowledge the camera directly. She captures natural behavior, whether she observes care or cruelty. Voices rarely raise, but the film still vibrates with fury.
In the final minutes, Dujuan is given an opportunity to express what would satisfy him, which he does in language simple enough that even his teachers should be able to understand:
“Leave black kids alone.”
“Stop killing Aboriginal people.”
“I want to be an Aborigine.”
In My Blood It Runs
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 24 minutes. Watch on The Future of Film Is Female.