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Bush Mechanics
A Series Directed by David Batty
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film stillThis offbeat series follows the exploits of the Bush Mechanics as they travel through the rugged central region of Australia.

In each episode, the Bush Mechanics, from the remote Aboriginal Warlpiri community of Yuendumu, are presented with a new set of challenges - catching a car thief, getting a nephew out of jail, racing to an outback rock concert and traveling thousands of miles to gather pearl shells for a rainmaking ceremony. As they traverse the desert in their dilapidated vehicles, they solve multiple car problems with wacky and inventive bush repair techniques.

Featured characters include Jack Jakamarra, an Aboriginal elder who introduces the episodes with recollections of his first strange encounters with white people and their ways, and Jupurrula, the magic mechanic who appears out of nowhere to help the Bush Mechanics when they get into real car trouble.

A blend of documentary and drama with anecdotes of life in the bush, each of the four episodes illuminates a particular aspect of Warlpiri life, from gathering bush tucker and living in a humpy, to soccer and rock and roll.

The Bush Mechanics form a rock band and their first paying gig is a half-day's drive away - now they just have to get there. None of them own a vehicle, so they resurrect a derelict car, load it up with band gear and hit the road. This episode follows the five Bush Mechanics as they bounce along rough bush tracks, occasionally encountering Jupurrula, the magic mechanic who helps them overcome their various car catastrophes with his bush ingenuity.

The Bush Mechanics travel to Alice Springs to collect their nephew from jail and wind up having their own brush with the law. Although their nephew Walter has done his time in jail, he still must be brought back to the community to face Aboriginal law. On their way home, the Bush Mechanics try to appease an eerie nighttime spirit who visits Walter in his dreams. As they approach their destination, the police stop them and send half the gang back to jail for having unpaid warrants for shooting cattle.

After an exhilarating win against the Yuendumu Magpies, four Mount Allen soccer players become stranded when the team bus leaves without them. To get back home, they "borrow" the rival team coach's car. A hilarious high-octane car chase ensues as the Bush Mechanics are enlisted to catch the culprits. The episode concludes with a spectacular act of revenge when the abandoned car is found.

With the country in the grip of severe drought, the Bush Mechanics are summoned by the rainmaker Jungala to go to Broome in search of rainmaking pearl shells. In the old days, Jungala would have traded bush tobacco for the valuable shells, but now he trades today's commodity - a motorcar he painted with the Rain Dreaming. As Jungala sings them on a safe journey, the Bush Mechanics are beset with dust storms, fires and unfamiliar landscapes as they travel to saltwater country to trade an old Ford V8 for the magical pearl shells.

Combining adventure, magic realism and a distinctive brand of indigenous humor, BUSH MECHANICS provides unique insight into both contemporary and traditional Aboriginal culture.

The four episodes are on two tapes.

© 2011 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia

"Outrageously inventive, hilarious, deeply spiritual and very human… sometimes it's hard to know where reality ends and dreams begin." - Inpress (Australia)

"Hold on to your starter plugs and clutch your choke … this is do-it-yourself television at its very best." - Daily Telegraph

"A good-humoured depiction of indomitable spirit and ingenuity." - The Age - Green Guide

"A great show; creative, educative and utterly enjoyable." - Sydney Morning Herald

2001 Margaret Mead International Film & Video Festival

104 minutes / Color
English / English subtitles
Release: 2001
Copyright: 2001

For colleges, universities, government agencies, hospitals and corporations

This DVD is sold with a license for institutional use and Public Performance rights.

Subject areas:
Anthropology, Cultural Anthropology, Indigenous Peoples, Media Studies

Related Links:
4 x 25 Minutes (on 2 tapes of 50 minutes each)

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