Ten Canoes


Universal acclaim - based on 20 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 20 out of 20
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 20
  3. Negative: 0 out of 20

Critic Reviews

  1. Ten Canoes is as much a work of anthropology as it is a narrative, and its true strength lies in its exploration of ancient aboriginal hunting practices, death rituals, and legal traditions.
  2. 63
    It's a thriller that refuses to thrill. It taunts us with resolution and mysteries, then slaps our hand for reaching out for a conclusion.
  3. Inspired by anthropologist Donald Thomson's early-20th-century photographs, this collaboration between a Western filmmaker and the native people of Ramingining is an impressive achievement of ethnographic cinema.
  4. Reviewed by: Sam Toy
    Ten Canoes is a rare and valuable movie, providing fascinating insight into another culture without pandering or being stuffy. Seek it out -- swim if you have to.
  5. A marvel of warm collaboration and shared jokes about husbands and wives, shot both in dreamscape color and pristine black and white.
  6. Ten Canoes is nonetheless audacious and impressive, but challenging work, requiring steadfast concentration.
  7. The humor in de Heer's script is mostly anatomical, and the performances of the nonpro cast are stiffer than bark. But you've never seen anything like it.
  8. 75
    Jokes about flatulence, human excrement and the size of someone's manhood also come into play, but they never cheapen this lush and enjoyable film.
  9. Despite dancing between a story and a story within a story, something seems simple and effortless about Ten Canoes. Director Rolf de Heer and his all-Yolngu cast offer a take on tribal life that's warm, funny and powerfully alive.
  10. 80
    It's a fascinating immersion within a highly ritualized Stone Age oral culture that, at least according to tradition, existed almost unchanged for thousands of years before the European arrival.
  11. Offers another way into these complex indigenous people, through storytelling as haunting as their artwork.
  12. A top-flight example of cinematic storytelling, thanks in large part to the unusual narration, spoken in English by David Gulpilil.
  13. 83
    Like a lot of folk tales, Ten Canoes peters out into something more prosaic than profound, but it flows like water, and has a deceptively gentle pull that proves hard to escape.
  14. A rollicking good story set a millennium ago among Australian aborigines, Ten Canoes is one of those cultural-building exercises that genuinely entertains.
  15. In telling this ancient story with style and humor, de Heer and his Aboriginal collaborators promote cultural understanding and acceptance by stealth, if you will.
  16. There is nothing more enthralling than a good yarn, and Ten Canoes interweaves two versions of the same story, one filmed in black and white and set a thousand years ago, and an even older one, filmed in color and set in a mythic, prehistoric past.
  17. Funny, perceptive, bawdy, tragic and philosophical, pretty much everything a viewer -- or a listener -- could ask for.
  18. 100
    Anthropology and entertainment are marvelously married in Rolf de Heer's Ten Canoes. The first feature in an Australian Aboriginal language feels authentic to the core as it tells a cautionary tale set 1,000 years ago.
  19. 100
    To watch this movie (shot in breathtaking widescreen by cinematographer Ian Jones) is to enter into a whole new language of symbols and meaning, the likes of which I have rarely encountered in cinema outside of the African tribal films of Ousmane Sembene.
  20. 100
    Its mixture of wisdom and whimsy -- exemplified by the movie's unnamed and occasionally cheeky narrator -- makes this Australian movie feel as timeless as it is timely. And instead of feeling dutifully cultural as we immerse ourselves in this story, we're genuinely intrigued, touched and even amused.

Awards & Rankings

User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 6 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 0 out of 1
  2. Negative: 0 out of 1
  1. Tj
    Jun 4, 2007
    The film is beautifully shot, but it is really quite wooden. The voiceover narration combined with quite stiff performances makes the whole The film is beautifully shot, but it is really quite wooden. The voiceover narration combined with quite stiff performances makes the whole thing feel like a half-hearted reenactment...it never comes to life. There is little attempt to penetrate into the real lives and personalities of the characters. We have to be content to peer at their exotic faces and the exotic setting. The self-conscious references to the "story" are supposed to sound spontaneous, but are as stiff and staged as everything else. And, it isn't much of a story. I can't help wondering if reviewers would be as tolerant of the wooden posing of the characters if it wasn't about aboriginal people. There just isn't much to this film. The NY Times review compares it to the Inuit film "The Fast Runner." All I can say is if you liked this film, see "The Fast Runner" because it's a much better film. Full Review »