The film “One Night the Moon” is a story about a farmer, that refuses the help of an Indigenous tracker and this contributes to his daughter’s death.
In 1932, a young girl (Emily Ryan) goes through her bedroom window in the middle of the night into outback Australia because of the entrancing moon. When her parents awake, there is no sign of the missing child. Jim and Rose Ryan spent the night looking for her, but cannot find her. The following day Jim Ryan asks the NSW police for help, however; their very best man is an indigenous tracker named Albert Yang. Jim Ryan refuses help from Albert insisting “-no blackfella is to set foot on my land.” Jim gathers as many white men as he can, and systematically searches across the desolate land, all the while, Albert watches helplessly as they erase every track in the dust.
Some time later, while the missing child is still missing, Rose Ryan makes a decision to ask for Albert’s help, without the knowledge of her husband. Albert and Rose find the girl dead in the hills and bring her body back home.
Albert’s wife sings the funeral song, while their own child is missing as a result of the “Stolen Generation”. Jim Ryan blames himself for his daughter’s death and commits suicide.
Jim Ryan refuses the help of an Indigenous tracker and this tragically ends in his daughter’s death, but his blatant racism is also accentuated by his fear of the Black Tracker’s knowledge of the land, and how it far exceeds any knowledge he possesses. This gives way to doubt in the settler’s mind of his ownership of the land, a theme that is continuously explored in Australian films and literature, An example of this is Kate Grenville’s “The Secret River“. The morning after the daughter goes missing and a search party is created, Jim Ryan deliberately excludes Albert, the Aboriginal Tracker which is thematically followed by the song “This land is mine/This land is me”. The song effectively demonstrates the opposition and position of the Farmer and the Tracker. The song also demonstrates the motif of ownership, The film is only applied to two characters in depth, Jim Ryan and Albert Yang, but these feeling of ambiguity felt by European settlers was widespread. The film is made up of wide shots that illustrate the vast expanses and rolling hills. The movie shows us the story of settlers struggling to own their harsh, silent terrain.
A key quote in the film is “No Blacks on my land”. The settler’s disregard for Albert’s name echoes the belief of many of the Australian settlers. Albert is simply one of the “blacks”. His deliberate exclusion of Albert depicts the historical relationship between the settlers and the aboriginals and their dispossession of Aboriginal communities from their land. However; these views weren’t shared by all non-indigenous Australians. At one point in the film one of the NSW police officers interjects saying “This is Albert’s country, he knows the land.” Jim Ryan’s refusal is his refusal to admit that it is Albert’s land, and to admit that admits prior ownership. “One Night the Moon” is a movie that demonstrates relationships between indigenous Australians and the settlers in the early 20th century, however; there are numerous Australian movies that focus on this same relationship in modern context such as “backroads“. The comparison of Backroads and One Night the Moon creates a juxtaposition that allows us to see the social movements of our culture and how we have changed.
While watching One night the moon, one must put themselves in the shoes of individuals from over 100 years ago. It’s important to note that current social ideals and beliefs do not (mostly) mirror the bigoted and ignorant believes depicted in this film. The film is partly written and directed by Rachel Perkins, a renowned Indigenous Australian writer and director. Her insight into the issues indigenous Australians may have adds a personal element to the film. Similarily Ivan Sen is an Indigenous Australian Director, Writer and Musician that created a movie, “Beneath Clouds” that explored his youth as an indiengous australian and coming to terms with his identity. Paul Kelly commented on the film, saying that the film doesn’t demonstrate the racial issues between indigenous and non-indigenous Australian, it’s more a depiction of Albert’s belonging and the settler’s refusal of acceptance. “Aborigines knew what they were looking for”.