Director: Trevor Graham
Trevor Graham's biography of Eddie Koiki Mabo belongs to a fine tradition in Australian documentary filmmaking. Astutely balancing the 'personal' and the 'social', Graham presents a concise history of Eddie Mabo's life and enduring legacy, together with the filmmaker's friendship and role in the life of his subject.
Mabo was born on Murray Island, but spent most of his life on mainland Australia. Adopted by his uncle after the death of his father, his relationship with the Islanders is best described as troubled; particularly so after he instigated legal proceedings seeking to establish his rights to sizable holdings of land on the island.
This was to establish, paradoxically, a principle that the High Court of Australia would uphold in 1992, five months after Eddie Mabo's death, that indigenous laws of land ownership predated European occupation.
Graham presents a passionate and moving testament to Eddie Mabo and his family, their unflinching dedication to one another and to the causes in which they believed. And, on a more sobering note, an indication of what the realpolitik of contemporary Australia is about. Despite the victory Eddie Mabo achieved in his short life, Graham sounds a sobering and pessimistic note about the possibilities for reconciliation in the current political climate.