STORM BOY (1976)
Greg Rowe - Mike 'Storm Boy' Kingsley
Peter Cummins - Tom 'Hide-Away Tom' Kingsley
David Gulpilil - Fingerbone Bill
Judy Dick - Miss Walker
Tony Allison - Ranger
Michael Moody - Boatmaster
Graham Dow - Edwards
Eric Mack - Jones
Frank Foster-Brown -Lynch
Michael Caulfield- Hunter
Paul Smith - Hunter
Hedley Cullen - Marina Manager
Directed by Henri Safran
Scriptwriter: Sonia Borg, Sidney L. Stebel, Colin Theile (novel)
Cinematographer: Geoff Burton
Producer: Matt Caroll and Jane Scott
Production company: South Australian Film Corporation
Length: 85 minutes running time, however on the back of the video and several other places it says 94 minutes.
Rated G for General Exhibition.
The World Premiere of Storm Boy was on the 18th of November 1976 at the Fair Lady Theatre. It was released outside Australia in 1977.
The film cost $260,000 to produce, and grossed $2.17 million dollars. (SAFC)
On the AFC list of the Top Australian films at the Australian box office, from
1966 to 31 December 2002, Storm Boy comes in at number 61 of the most
successful Australian films released during that period. The gross box office
takings for the film (as stated here) was $2,645,000. http://www.afc.gov.au/GTP/mrboxaust.html
Storm Boy was sold to and distributed in over 100 countries, and was one of the first Australian films to be distributed in Japan. (Celluloid Heroes 1995, NSW Film Australia). Storm Boy is a movie for children and families and since its release has been widely used in English classrooms around Australia.
The movie was filmed in South Australia in the Coorong at the Fluerieu Peninsula, 88 km from Adelaide.
Golden Tripod, ACS Awards 1977 (Best Cinematography, feature film)
MILLI Award, Best Overall Cinematography
2 awards, Moscow Children's Film Festival 1977
3 awards Tehran Children's Film Festival 1977
2 awards for Films portraying living creatures, and protection of animals
2 Australian Film Institute Awards 1977
Best Film, AFI Awards 1977
Jury Prize, AFI Awards 1977
David Gulpilil was nominated for an AFI award in 1977 for Best Leading Actor for his role as Fingerbone Bill in Storm Boy, but missed out. (Patrick 2002)
There was not a huge amount of information about the film Storm Boy
on the Internet. This was probably due to the fact that the film was released
some 27 years ago. Most of the online information I found about the movie were
reviews of the movie written at the time of its more recent release to DVD.
Storm Boy was released to DVD alongside several other films seen as 'Classic
Australian Cinema' in September of 2001. In my initial search, I did not find
any information about the exact release date or any box office figures, so I
e-mailed the Information Services of the South Australian Film Corporation who
were able to provide this information to me. The only cast member of Storm
Boy to have a website devoted to them was Gulpilil, his site did include
reference to the film. Storm Boy was referred to three times in Tom O'Regan's
Australian National Cinema (1996) as one of the examples of classic Australian
films that had been made by 'people of diverse ancestry' (1996:322), and also
as a film that shows the interaction of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.
This was also noted in the Oxford Companion to Australian Film "The overlapping
stories of alienation, marginalisation and loss that connect Storm Boy, the
outcast 'Fingerbone' Bill and the pelicans that the boy raises are powerful
allegories for potential relations between Blacks and Whites. They also impart
valuable lessons about the use of and respect for the natural environment."
- The Oxford Companion to Australian Film as quoted on Big Screen 2003. http://www.screensound.gov.au/bigscreen/eaglehawk.html
All the reviews/synopsis's I found on the film were positive, although the reviewer of the DVD release was slightly less than impressed with the transfer quality. The film was quite an important one and was described as a 'classic Australian film' in every review I saw, as well as being printed on the video and DVD cases. My family has owned a copy of the 1991 video release of Storm Boy for the past 11 years so the back of the video was another source of information as it listed the awards that Storm Boy won.
The following online sources were helpful in my search for information:
A story about Gulilpil and Greg Rowe meeting up at a 2002 screening of Storm
Boy at an Adelaide Festival.
Here is a link to a review of Storm Boy on DVD by Tony Rodgers.
Screensound Australia - Storm Boy
A review and synopsis of the DVD release of the film and purchasing information.
'Every once in a while there is a special film, a film that appeals to all ages, a classic family entertainment that celebrates life and joyfully touches the heart. Storm Boy is that film.
Storm Boy lives with his recluse father on South Australia's lonely and beautiful coast. Here his free spirit roams with his pet pelican, Mr. Percival, and his secret Aboriginal friend, Fingerbone Bill. He knows no other world.
Suddenly there are intruders, the local school teacher who wants him to take lessons, a resentful wild-life ranger, duck shooters... Storm Boy, growing up is forced to choose between a life of continued isolation and the challenges of the outside world.'
The Internet Movie Database http://www.imdb.com
Review and Plot Outline
Storm Boy is a 10-year old boy living with his reclusive fisherman father in a tiny house by the beach in the Coorong. Rarely do they have any contact with other people and the outside world. The film's opening scenes are long shots of the coastline and crashing waves and the boy collecting wooden planks for firewood along the beach. He finds something different, a radio, which his dad says to put in the rubbish as "We don't want it." Tom (the father) does not want outside influences (such as the radio or schooling) to disturb the simple and peaceful life they lead. "The radio will tell you you need this or that and a thousand other things. You'll want more and more and you'll end up chasing a lot of rubbish." and about schooling 'He can learn all he needs to know right here." Early in the film the boy (Mike) goes off alone on his raft and notices some smoke from a fire and an old boat so he goes over to investigate. An Aboriginal man grabs him from behind and tells him off. Mike is scared and runs off, the man starts laughing. Mike next encounters the Aboriginal man when he is walking alone and gunshots disturb the peace and he sees dead birds fall to the ground. The man shoots at the hunters to scare them off then asks Mike if he's coming to see if they hit anything. The Aboriginal man introduces himself as Fingerbone Bill and gives Mike the name Storm Boy as he 'runs like a black fella.' Together they find a pelican nest with three freshly hatched pelicans. The mother is dead nearby. Fingerbone tells Storm Boy that storms come when pelicans are killed, and this eventuates. Mike brings them home and puts them in a box to look after them and feed them. The pelicans continue to grow until they are mature. Tom tells Mike that it is time to take them back and let them go free. This is very difficult for Storm Boy who is worried about them and tries to get them to return. Much to Storm Boy's delight, his favourite pelican, Mr. Percival does come back and the two of them are shown playing games and having fun. Storm Boy also teaches the pelican to catch a ball and bring it back to him.
Storm Boy's peaceful existence is again disturbed one night by the sound of cars, with hooligan drunk drivers who seek to destroy their property. Fingerbone Bill saves the day by scaring them off by firing a shot at one of their headlights. It is here where Fingerbone meets Tom, who is grateful to him and respects him. Tom and Storm Boy visit Fingerbone the next day and bring him a fish to eat. That night the two men confide in each other, Fingerbone saying that he broke the Kunai law with a woman and was banished from his tribe, and Tom saying that he left his wife. Storm Boy overhears the conversation and is upset by this revelation, as he believed that his mother was dead. His response is to run away to the city, wanting to find her. He walks past the local school, where the teacher Miss Walker gives him something to eat and drink and includes him in the class (which happened to be about pelicans). Miss Walker then contacts the ranger to tell Tom, and he and Fingerbone come to collect him . Tom tells him that he did leave his mother but his mother has since died in a car crash. When they are getting ready to go back home on the boat, the men on a nearby boat have music blaring from the radio and are drinking from beer cans which they throw into the water afterwards. This is seen as pollution of the environment. The fishermen get caught in a storm, but fortunately Mr. Percival was able to take a line to them so the men could be rescued. The grateful men offer Tom money and the opportunity to send Mike to a boarding school, which he considers, but is torn between his life now and the life he could have in the city. The next time the hunters are in the area, Mr Percival is shot down and Mike does a mad search through the long grass to find him. The search is unsuccessful and Mike cries as he walks along the beach remembering times they spent together. Tom talks with Mike about making a fresh start, moving to Goola, a small town nearby where he could buy the service station and Mike could attend school and they wouldn't have to be apart. 'We gotta stick together don't we?".
Fingerbone eventually finds Mr. Percival and buries him. He shows Storm Boy the grave he dug, and there are a few moments of sadness, but this is turned to hope when Fingerbone shows Storm Boy a nest with a freshly hatched pelican in it. "Mr. Percival all over again, a bird like him never dies."
Discussion of the film
The 1976 film Storm Boy is based on the novel of the same name by Australian author Colin Theile. The film was well-received by critics and the public, winning several major awards both here (including an AFI award for Best Film) and overseas (Children's Film Festivals in Moscow, Russia and Tehran, Iran in 1977), and making an almost tenfold profit. The film was one of the first Australian feature films made for children to become well-known and both the book and film are still widely used in school English programmes.
In terms of the films made in the 1970s Storm Boy is a quality film. Like My Brilliant Career (1979, dir. Gillian Armstrong) or Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975, dir. Peter Weir), two of the best-known successful quality productions of the late Seventies, Storm Boy was an adaptation of a novel. Films based on novels are often popular as people who have read the book will see the film as they are already familiar with the story and characters. 'The difference between these quality scripts as opposed to the 'ocker' releases from earlier in the decade was that they allowed the director to utilise all the aesthetic elements of cinematographic production.' (Northover 2000) This is definitely true of Storm Boy as there are a lot of sweeping shots of the coastline and birds flying in the sky. This adds to the peaceful feel of the film and also gives the audience a sense of the vastness of the land and how isolated these characters really are from the outside world. The AFC genre of 'quality' films 'foreground their Australianness through representations of the landscape; lyrically and beautifully shot; and employing aesthetic mannerisms such as a fondness for long, atmospheric shots and an avoidance of action or sustained conflict.' (Turner 1989:100)
Storm Boy is characteristic of Australian national cinema as medium sized. It was made on a relatively small ($260,000) budget, and turned out to be a 'sleeper' that grossed over 2 million dollars. Storm Boy was one of the few Australian movies to be released and successful both here and overseas. The landscape and theme make the film uniquely Australian. The films style is quiet and peaceful, so when this serenity is disturbed by the loud gunshots and hooligans it has a much greater impact. There is not a lot of dialogue in the film, music plays a large role in setting the mood. Storm Boy is typical of Australian feature films in that the majority of the characters are male, only the teacher is a female. Australian cinema has a 'masculinist bias which sees a 'peripheral part' played by women.' (Morris 1989:17)
A central character is that of Fingerbone Bill (David Gulpilil). It was in the 1970s that Aboriginal people were really beginning to be recognised and respected in Australia, with Aboriginal people being given the right to vote in 1967. In this movie the character of Fingerbone Bill to a large extent follows the stereotype people have of the Aborigine. Eg. He lives in the bush, has a strong connection with the natural world, paints his face and performs Aboriginal songs and dance. 'Australian cinema is brimming with instances of the yearning for association with Aboriginal culture.' (Palmer and Gillard 2002:128) In this film Storm Boy learns more about the world through Fingerbone Bill than his father or any other means. It is Fingerbone who gives him the present of a book that was washed up and reads bits of it to him, and teaches him about animals and nature.
This was the first acting Job for 11 year old Greg Rowe, who was not trained in acting. He went on to make four films after Storm Boy, including a lead role in Blue Fin (1978). Storm Boy was director Henri Safran's first feature film, he had previously worked on television. Since Storm Boy, Safran has directed 5 more feature films including Norman Loves Rose (1982) and Bush Christmas (1983). He has also directed mini series, including A Fortunate Life (1985). Originally from France, Safran is one of many people from non-English speaking backgrounds who produced 'many of the classics of Australian cinema'. (O'Regan 1996:352) David Gulpili was 23 years old when he made Storm Boy. According to the Big Picture programme about him "Gulpilil - One Red Blood" he 'got the role cos of his dancing' and his standout performance in Walkabout (1971). David Gulpilil has appeared in many films since Storm Boy including The Last Wave (1977), Crocodile Dundee (1986), Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002) and most recently The Tracker (2002). Storm Boy was his third feature film. (IMDB). The South Australian Film Commission that made Storm Boy began in 1972. The films Storm Boy (1976) and Sunday Too Far Away (1974) were two of the SAFC's early success stories.
Screensound Australia - Storm Boy
http://www.screensound.gov.au/Screensound/Screenso.nsf/AllDocs/F974185A0B7732D3CA256B5F001D4800?OpenDocument (accessed Feb 7th 2003)
Big Screen 2003 - A celebration of Australian Cinema
http://www.screensound.gov.au/bigscreen/eaglehawk.html (accessed May 1st 2003)
Release success of Australian productions - Box office - Australia
http://www.afc.gov.au/GTP/mrboxaust.html (accessed 20th April 2003)
Morris, Meaghan (1989) 'Fate and the Family Sedan', East West Film Journal 4: 1 p117
Northover, Miles (2000) Newsfront (1978) http://wwwmcc.murdoch.edu.au/ReadingRoom/film/dbase/2000/newsfront.html#anchor144380
Palmer, Dave and Gillard, Garry (2002) 'Aboriginies, Ambivalence and Australian Film' in Metro 134, p128-134
Patrick, Rhianna (2002) 'David Gulpilil' (interview and article about his life and work) http://www.abc.net.au/message/blackarts/film/s725610.htm (accessed 4th April 2003)
Turner, Graeme (1989) 'Art Directing History: the Period Film'. In Tom O'Regan and A. Moran (eds) Australian Screen, p100
Big Picture: "Gulpilil - One Red Blood" ABC TV screened Wednesday 11th December 2002 - 8.30 pm Written and directed by Darlene Johnson
Celluloid Heroes 1995, NSW Film Australia
Storm Boy dir. Henri Safran 1976
Written by Leanne Good for H231 Australian Cinema, Tutor
Garry Gillard 2003