Who’d fly 4000km in a second-hand microlight aircraft from Adelaide (SA) to Beagle Bay (WA)? It’s not exactly what most of us imagine as the ideal holiday, but for Aidan Glasby it was a dream big enough to convince his mate Daryl Clarke to join him. Accompanied by filmmaker Charlie Hill-Smith, and with partners Lexi Keneally and Elsie Clarke following in a four-wheel drive for ground support, the pair set off on an adventure like no other. The aim? To share a story of remote Australia.
Aidan and Lexi had already developed a passion for working with remote communities through their work as nurses. Because they’d be travelling through twenty Aboriginal language nations, they knew it would important to be introduced to the traditional owners and elders across the country so they invited rock legend Carroll Karpany (Ngarrindjeri Nation) and mate Bart Sansbury (Narrangga Nation) to join them as guides. Mylo the dog came along for the ride.
Motorkite Dreaming is a video diary documenting every frustrating, dangerous and exhilarating aspect of the journey from the moment the two pilots wave goodbye to the Southern Ocean and head across the vast interior of the continent, with just 600cc two-stroke engines keeping them in the air. Their first challenge – the Flinders Ranges – is notorious for hot winds. On-board cameras capture the vulnerability of the two flyers as their ‘motorbikes with wings’ are buffeted by gusts high above the jagged mountain peaks. Everyone’s miked up so we hear conversations between the pilots and their support crew, and can eavesdrop on the dynamic between the two men and their different approaches to the problems they encounter.
Hill-Smith’s cinematography and editing makes the most of the expansive skies and landscapes, showcasing some truly stunning outback scenery. The film’s soundtrack features a score by David Bridie with original music by Carroll Karpany, and it’s perfectly suited to the action without being intrusive. There’s a bit of rock history, too, as the travellers pass through Papunya, with memories of ground-breaking Aboriginal 80s groups Us Mob and Warumpi Band who still have a following today.
Connections with communities along the way are what really make Motorkite Dreaming special and bring to life the songlines. As Karpany explains, ‘Australia is covered with ancient roads and highways of culture and trade that connect the south to the north. Your song is your identity. It connects you to a certain part of the earth and the ancestors that lived there before us’.
The group meets elders like Reggie Dodd (Arabana) in Marree, and learn local history and the significance of the Aboriginal people in each area. Traditional owner Ramath Thomas (Kokatha Nation) braves a flight above his country, getting an aerial view of the stories of his people. Dillon Andrews (Bunuba Nation) puts the travellers through the smoke to cleanse them of any bad spirits that may have hitched a ride with them. At the Kintore music and sports festival there’s desert footy, giggling kids, dogs and dust, and a celebration of lives and land that’s not often depicted with such an easygoing eye.
Set-backs like flat tyres and flooded roads highlight the ingenuity and guts of each team member. They start as strangers but become family as they bond in their determination to follow through with what they set out to achieve. Watching the trailer gives a hint to what this film’s about, but watching the whole thing brings the realisation that it’s so much more. There’s no need to artificially inflate the drama – the majestic country and the daily struggle to stay in the air and on the road keep it engrossing.
Motorkite Dreaming helps us look at things from a different angle and make sense of the topology and geography of the landscape in a new way by seeing it from above, rather than out of a car window. From waterholes to mountain tops, from deep caves to crocodile-infested mudflats, the journey is also one of healing and reconciliation, and the recognition of a living Aboriginal culture.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this film may contain images and sounds that may relate to deceased persons.
Reviewed by Jo Vabolis
Rating out of 10: 10
- Motorkite Dreaming website
- Charlie Hill-Smith on the IMDB
- Motorkite Dreaming Facebook page
- Motorkite Dreaming Instagram page
Motorkite Dreaming screens nationally from 11 August 2016. Screening dates can be found on the Motorkite Dreaming website.