Film Review: Zach’s Ceremony

Cinematography by Robert C Morton.

Review by James Cunningham.

Filmed over five years, Zach’s Ceremony is an uplifting and moving coming-of-age feature debut from filmmaker Aaron Petersen and Cinematographer Robert C Morton (Storm Surfers 3D).

Zach’s Ceremony is a universal story about father and son relationship, culture, tribal lore, the injustices and the importance of knowing connection.Teetering on the edge of manhood, Zach is torn between two worlds: the pulsing modernity of his Sydney home and the proud Aboriginality of his father. “In Sydney they call me a blackfella, in Doomadgee they call me a whitefella. I don’t know who I am,” says Zach (Zachiariah Doomadgee) in the film.

The cinematography of Zach’s Ceremony is powerful. From the lucid shots of Zach boxing with his father whilst arguing life’s hardships, to perfect images of the striking Queensland landscape, the visual journey astounds. Morton offers a keen-eyed insight into the real and ever-present clash between tradition and modernity experienced by so many Indigenous people. It’s a humane, compassionate portrayal of a boy rediscovering his culture – a moment in time where the sacred knowledge of the past is giving way to an all-too uncertain future.

It’s depiction of aboriginal life is harsh but respectful, and the characters are more relatable than one may think.

Reviewed at the 2016 Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF).

James Cunningham is the Editor of Australian Cinematographer Magazine.

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