R0 - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (25th June 2017).
The Film

"Contact" (2010)

In 1964, Yuwali was seventeen when her first contact with "whitefellas" was filmed. Now sixty-two, she tells the story behind this extraordinary footage.

Contact is constructed around one of the most compelling pieces of footage in Australian history: the moment in 1964 when a group of Martu women and children walk out from their nomadic existence of millennia in the Western Desert into a new universe – modern Australia. Remarkably, participants from both the Aboriginal and European sides are alive to tell their story.

The film centres on Yuwali, the beautiful seventeen-year–old girl we see making that giant leap on 24 September 1964. Now sixty-two, vibrant and with a gorgeous infectious laugh, Yuwali still remembers life before contact, when her tribe flourished in one of the most hostile environments on the planet.

29 May 1964 was the date Australian and European Scientists predicted the Blue Streak rocket they were testing would break up upon re-entry into the earth's atmosphere and plummet into the Percival Lakes area, Yuwali's home. The authorities needed to make contact with anyone who might be living there and evacuate them.

The days counting down to blast off drive the narrative of the film. Day by day Yuwali, back at the Lakes, gives a riveting account as she and the nineteen others in her group are chased hundreds of kilometres around the desert trying to escape the 'devilmen' in the 'rocks that move' (four wheel drives). It's extremely rare to hear such an articulate and perceptive first-hand account of life before contact and the shock and fear of seeing cars, planes and whitefellas for the first time. Yuwali tells us of the discussions among her family and kin about how to respond to these terrifying new experiences.

One of the more contentious elements of the story is the decision to take the twenty Martu from their desert home into Jigalong Mission after contact. The man who made that decision is Terry Long, a Native Welfare Officer for the Western Australian Government. He provides the other narrative spine to Contact by revealing the mindset of the whites involved in the patrol, the story behind the Blue Streak rocket program and explaining why he made the decision to take the isolated group from their ancestral home.

Yuwali has lived through contact, missions, remote settlements, Native Title and desperate efforts to hold on to language and culture. In effect, she represents a microcosm of the Aboriginal experience since settlement in 1788. In many ways, Contact is not only a story about the past. It holds up a mirror to contemporary society.

Directed by Martin Butler and Bentley Dean, the duo that also made the documentary TV series "First Footprints" (2013) and the Academy Award nominated feature "Tanna" (2015), the story told in "Contact" seems hard to believe that it could happen only in recent history, but there were still a number of Aborigine tribes that had no contact with the western world well within the 20th century. Based on the autobiographical book "Cleared Out" (2005, Aboriginal Studies Press) and told through recently shot interviews with surviving members, vintage film footage, and photographs, it's a fascinating story of the difficulties of assimilation and how the Australian government handled the situation and how terrifying the situation was for the women and children scared for their lives.

Note this is a region ALL DVD in the PAL format which can be played back on any DVD or Blu-ray player worldwide with PAL capability


Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement in the PAL format. Comprised of newly shot HD footage and vintage footage, the quality varies from scene to scene. The new interview segments look quite good with vibrant colors and fine detail. The vintage segments such as the news footage and the material shot by the patrol officers look much weaker with softer detail, scratches, and damage throughout. It is not too distracting but shows definite age to the film footage. It is also cropped to fit the widescreen rather than presenting in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio.

The film's runtime in 78:06. Screenshots are as follows:


English/Martu Dolby Digital 5.1
The 5.1 track uses the surround channels for music and added effects for the vintage footage such as the rockets and the scenes of the fires burning. Otherwise the speech naturally comes from the center speaker. The native Martu language is the most commonly spoken with portions such as the interview with Long and the Australian news footage being in English. Dialogue is clear with no moments of distortion or errors to speak of.

There are burned-in English subtitles in a yellow font for the Aboriginal Martu language portions and some hard-to-hear English portions.


There are no extras offered on the disc. There is a main menu, with options to play the film and a scene selection function.


"Contact" tells a phenomenal story that is an important part of Aboriginal history through the surviving members of the incident. The story is told through both sides - the Martu women and children running for their lives from the oncoming "monsters" while the Australian patrol was doing everything they could to come in contact with the people to take them to safety. The Umbrella Entertainment DVD presents the film well with good video and audio transfers. Sadly without extras but the film comes as recommended.

The Film: A Video: B+ Audio: A Extras: F- Overall: B


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