In this rapidly changing world, it's comforting to know there are a few constants that have existed since we humans first dragged ourselves out of the primordial muck. Ten Canoes, though set in the ancient world of the Australian Ramingining tribe, may as well be a modern-day story for all its lessons about the value of community, the fear of strangers, the importance of the rule of law, the temptations of the fairer sex, and the madness of having more than one wife.
Told in double-layer flashbacks by an irreverent aborigine narrator (David Gulpilil), Ten Canoes introduces us to Yeeralparil (Jamie Gulpilil), a young member of the tribe who is single and frisky and known to have a crush on one of his older brother Minygululu's wives. Sensing danger, Minygululu takes Yeeralparil aside during a group fishing expedition to recount the ancient myth of Dayindi, in which a young man has a crush on one of his older brother's wives.
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 - a simple system of clearly drawn lines and payback ceremonies our own convoluted web of suits and countersuits could never hope to aspire to. Add to that enough tantalizing shots of the Australian Outback to make the producers of the finest National Geographic nature documentaries weep openly, and you have a new and different kind of cinematic mythmaking.