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Lil Bois – waking the language of Ngandi

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Two Aboriginal boys in grass skirts stand at left and behind an Aboriginal man in a red shirt and boy in a grass skirt in the foreground. The man holds some papers on which he and the third boy are focussed. In the background is long grass and trees.
L-R: Joshua Murrungun, Dwayne Daniels, Grant Thompson and Noah Murrungun. (Photo by Nicola Bell)
27 Aug 2019

Lil Bois (Little Boys), a short film written and directed by Ngandi man Grant Thompson, recently won the Best Ensemble Acting Award from the Cheboksary International Film Festival in Russia.

The film is about a shy boy and his friends who return to their camp after swimming in a billabong, only to find the camp empty and their families gone.

‘The story is about survival, colonisation and settlement. We were introduced to this new world that we are in today. So the teaching and learning is still going today,’ Grant said.

‘I work in the Ngukurr Language Centre. I realised that the story I want to tell comes from language and telling the history of language here.’

Lil Bois is written in the traditional Indigenous language of Ngandi which Grant calls a ‘sleeping language’, a language he wants to wake up through making the film. It also features the languages of Wägilak and Roper Kriol.

Grant did not grow up speaking his traditional language but learnt it later through his relationship with mentor Elder Mrs. C Daniels OA. She was the last speaker of Ngandi in Ngukurr and has since passed away.

‘We’re in a time when young people need elders.  We need to start communicating, to start again. So this film is about speaking to everyone, reconnecting to that balance that we’ve been using for a long time, to find the way forward.’

Grant taught language at the local school where he identified five boys who had great language skills. Those skills in Ngandi and their performance were of such quality, they won the award in Russia.

Since it premiered at the Darwin International Film Festival in September last year, Lil Bois was also nominated for Best Fictional Short in the Capricornia Film Awards.

It toured with the NT Travelling Film Festival and the Flickerfest Touring Film Festival, was shown on NITV this past month, and is now available to watch on NITV/SBS on demand.

The film was made as part of the Ngukurr Story Project, a collaboration between Ngukurr Art Centre and Ngukurr Language Centre with the support of the Stronger Communities for Children Program and Indigenous Languages and Arts.

The project supports local people to tell their stories through film in their languages.

Find out more

The National Indigenous Australians Agency’s Stronger Communities for Children (SCfC) program aims to give children and young people in the NT the best possible start in life through services and activities that create safe and positive environments.

The SCfC supports the Ngukurr Story Project. You can find the stories on their Youtube page or on their website Ngukurr Story Project.

For information about the project contact: ngukurrstoryproject@ngukurrarts.com.

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