Island Home Country is a poetic cine-essay about race and Australia’s colonised history and how it impacts into the present. It offers insights into how various individuals deal with the traumatic legacies of British colonialism and its race-based policies.
The film’s consultative process, with ‘Respecting Cultures’ (Tasmanian Aboriginal Protocols), offers an evolving shift in Australian historical narratives from the frontier wars, to one of diverse peoples working through historical trauma in a process of de-colonisation: “Deep in the Tasmanian bush a dreamer is pursued by reality: ‘I am white, born on a stolen island’.
So begins Jeni Thornley’s complex journey through a latent Australian story ‘a shedding of skin, a colonial layer, to see with different eyes, to reckon with amnesia’. Using a mix of narrative and interviews within a film-essay structure, Thornley positions herself both in relation to Aboriginal history, philosophy, and society, and that of her own family and society as the ‘interloper’… She addresses the personal tensions between the privilege of her perceived whiteness and the political reality it creates for Aboriginal people, exposing the underpinning instability of this existence through the perceptions of friends, relatives, and others.
Connections made along the way between historical and contemporary local, national, and global events produce a broadened political perspective. There is a cathartic retelling and analysis of personal memories and collective histories in the film’s movement from past to present and back again, as Thornley seeks a resolution to the ongoing ethical dilemma surrounding the occupation of Aboriginal lands. The Aboriginal response to her enquiry is constant throughout her journey and, in the end, offers the only possible solution.” Chris Peacock, Brisbane International Film Festival.