The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith is based on the true story of part white, part aboriginal Jimmie Blacksmith, stuck between his native roots and the white culture. Exploited and abused he eventually snaps and goes into a killing spree.
Fred Schepisi’s second feature, with its mild box office reception at home, was a disillusioning experience and Schepisi eventually left Australia to work in Hollywood. This adaptation of the novel by Thomas Keneally was introduced in competition at the 1978 Cannes Film Festival.
A drama with Ozploitation overtones (you get some exploitative burst of violence), its take on racism against the natives is confrontational and without mercy, a possible explanation for the mild reception. It is beautifully shot (cinematographer Ian Baker followed Schepisi in Hollywood working with him on such film as Six degrees of separation) with a strong cast headed by Murrungun actor and musician Tommy Lewis (a first timer) with supporting roles including Freddy Reynolds, Jack Thompson, Bryan Brown and Ian Baker.
The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith is a crucial and forceful film.