By Juliette Taylor and Juliette Thompson
Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers please be advised the following article contains names of people who have died.
Panelists were left in tears at a special screening and discussion of a film this week capturing the influence of musicians Ruby Hunter and Archie Roach on young Indigenous artists.
Wash My Soul in the River’s Flow, a moving crowd-funded documentary on the couple’s love story, revolves around footage and stories captured from their 2004 concert Kura Tungar-Song from the River. The concert, in collaboration with the Australian Art Orchestra, took place six years before Hunter’s death from a heart attack.
A Q&A session hosted by journalist Narelda Jacobs, after the screening at the Newtown Dendy, to celebrate First Nation’s women musicians, with singers Alice Skye and Emily Wurramara, heard of the profound influence the pair had had.
Jacobs described the film as “giving a voice to pain”.
Singer Emily Wurramara, reflecting on her own struggles as a First Nations woman and the influence of ‘Auntie Ruby’ and ‘Uncle Archie’s’ stories, said the film was “something our younger selves needed”.
Phillipa Bateman’s directorial debut conveys the cultural influence Ruby and Archie had within the Indigenous Australian community.
The landscape of the Murray river, where Ruby grew up is beautifully captured and the story completely told through Archie’s and Ruby’s words.
Bateman told the audience it was “first and foremost a beautiful love story” that would hopefully bring hope and strength to the Indigenous community, carrying on Ruby’s legacy. She said Roach produced the film and was incredibly supportive of honouring Ruby.
She emphasised it was a film for everyone but the goal was ultimately to inspire young Indigenous artists.
Asked why it was based on footage taken so long ago, Bateman replied: “What really struck me was, that was 2004, and in 2020 not much had changed.”
She added: “They were Stolen Generation children but they survived, and they didn’t just survive they triumphed.”
The film captures Ruby and Archie’s humorous and loving relationship and their light-hearted natures despite the trials endured throughout their lives. They met when both were 16 and homeless.
Main photo: Ruby Hunter and Archie Roach. Photo: Courtesy Documentary Australia
Wash my Soul in the River’s Flow is currently playing at Dendy cinemas.