Putuparri and the Rainmakers

Figuring out what to watch on the weekends? or on your spare time?

How about an Indigenous documentary 10 years in the making? Who won the title of best film at the 2015 CinéfestOz festival in Western Australia?


Yes? Then watch ‘Putuparri and the Rainmakers’!

Directed by Melbourne film-maker Nicole Ma, this 90min documentary follows Tom ‘Putuparri’ Lawford who is an Aboriginal man struggling to reconcile his life in the modern world with his destiny as a cultural leader of his people. This Wangkajunga man who lives in Fitzroy Crossing, is the narrator of the film and he plays a shifting role. Sometimes he’s a central figure, sometimes an observer, and he moves between a number of worlds, within and sometimes outside Indigenous culture. With his family’s cultural heritage at risk of being lost forever, Putuparri’s grandfather takes him on three epic journeys into the remote Great Sandy Desert. Each time, Putuparri learns more about his grandfather’s early life and the rainmaking ceremonies that connect him to his country. Putuparri comes to understand the spiritual significance of these ceremonies and his own responsibility for their survival. This realisation marks his passage from rebellious young man to inspirational leader.

Putuparri’s story is personal and painful, on other occasions it’s expansive and far-reaching.

Need more convincing? Alright then. Here are snippets of reviews that will hopefully convince you more!


Sandy Toussaint, a writer at The Conversation and coincidentally the Adjunct Professor with the CENRM and the School of Social and Cultural Studies at UWA, wrote a review of this documentary.

She wrote that “one of the film’s many qualities is the way in which Ma captures the beauty, diversity and visual distinctiveness of local life. There are wide-screen shots of the iconic Fitzroy River alongside images of the local supermarket, a road-killed kangaroo, children at school on sports day and the Mangkaja Arts organisation”, and, “Ma’s nuanced, respectful and powerful film shows that Putuparri is not only listening to the words of his grandparents and observing their devotion; he is also ready to pick up the significant mantel they will leave with him”.

Philippa Hawker, a writer at The Sydney Morning Herald, gave this documentary a ​★★★★ rating and shared her thoughts about it.

She praised the fact that “Ma has found remarkable archival footage from 1994, when Lawford took a video camera with him as he accompanied Spider and several elders on an expedition to their country in the Great Sandy Desert. They had set out to find the Kurtal, or ceremonial waterhole, a place that plays a role in traditional rainmaking.  Ma takes us back several time to this site, and each visit brings us new images and issues to contemplate.”

Hawker commend the documentary further by saying that “one of the film’s strengths is the time that Ma has devoted to it. Watching it, we have a sense of continuity and change, of growth and of loss. We see change and transformation, get to know figures over a period of time.  We see Lawford as a young man, as father, and finally, grandfather, we watch as he succumbs to destructive and self-destructive impulses, but also manages to find his way, to pass on to others what has been transmitted to him. The story he is part of is not resolved, by any means, but it is opened up to the viewer in absorbing, thoughtful ways”.




Groves, N 2015, ‘Putuparri and the Rainmakers wins best film at 2015 CinéfestOz festival’, The Guardian, 31 August. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com [26 August 2016].

Hawker, P 2015, ‘Putuparri And The Rainmakers review: A story of life, time and culture’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 30 September. Available from: http://www.smh.com.au [26 August 2016].

Screen Australia n.d., The Screen Guide: Putuparri. Available from: http://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/the-screen-guide/t/putuparri-2015/32750 [26 August 2016].

Toussaint, S 2015, ‘Putuparri and the Rainmakers is a stunning story of Aboriginal culture, life and law’, The Conversation, 14 August. Available from: https://theconversation.com [26 August 2016].


3 comments on “Putuparri and the RainmakersAdd yours →

  1. The Website was done very well, I like the color and style, but I think some of the content are relatively too small, maybe it can be extensive, such as, for movies, it should be broadly classified, if you are interested in certain topics then you can directly link into it.

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