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Putuparri and the Rainmakers (2015) is an epic film about about courage, family, Aboriginal culture and law as Putuparri Tom Lawford, a Kimberley Wangkajunga man, takes a deeply rewarding journey back to his desert home and traditional lands.

>>Watch “Putuparri and the Rainmakers” Now.

Putuparri’s mission is to bring the magnificent five-by-eight-metre Ngurrara canvas from the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra back to the Mangkaja Art Centre in Fitzroy Crossing. He works with other key figures such as Murrungkurr Terry Murray from the Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre to collect the painting which was produced at Pirnirni in support of their Ngurrara native title claim passed in 2007.  The painting is iconic and Putuparri’s task is portrayed as a major turning point in his life, as indeed it is in the film.

Photo courtesy of the Yununijarra Aboriginal Corporation.

The Ngurrara Great Sandy Desert Canvas is a unique and vibrant map of Country that was originally painted to support the Ngurrara native title claim in 1997. The 10 metre by 8 metre painting is a wealth of stories and information about the desert: about water, plants, songs and ceremonies.

Chinese-born Director, Nicole Ma, artfully captures Putuparri’s story which spans more than a decade, moving seamlessly between his different worlds. Ma follows Putuparri from Fitzroy Crossing to Kurtal, the life-giving waterhole in Western Australia’s Great Sandy Desert where his people have held rainmaking rituals for generations. She deftly captures the diversity and stunning visual symbols of local life as she juxtaposes wide-screen shots of the iconic Fitzroy River with images of the local supermarket; kangaroo road-kill; local school children on sports day and activities at the Mangkaja Arts Centre.

Ma’s portrays Putuparri’s responsibilities as a future leader; his drive to reconnect with Customary Law and the burden of passing on his knowledge to future generations and powerfully presents these  alongside his family and work commitments as he journeys from Fitzroy crossing to Kurtal. The six-day journey is taken by a small group of elders crossing the rugged terrain in a four-wheel drive convoy. For some of these elders, it is the first time they’ve returned to their traditional lands in 40 years; while for younger ones such as Putuparri, it is the first time he visits this legendary place that he’s only heard about since he was a child.


While Putuparri’s story is central to the film, it is also a tribute to Putuparri’s grandparents – Wirrali (now deceased), and the activist/artist Spider and Juguja Dolly Snell. Ma weaves their perspectives in alongside footage of the 40 artists and claimants working together on the Ngurrara Canvas painting at Pirnirni desert prior to the 1997 hearings of the National Native Title tribunal. Stories shared by Putuparri’s sister, performer Ningali Lawford-Wolf are also skilfully interspersed.

Putuparri and the Rainmakers is not only a film about Aboriginal culture, history and heritage, it is also a film with universal themes about personal identity, family, courage and humanity.

>>Watch “Putuparri and the Rainmakers” Now. 






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