The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith deals with the plight of a half-caste aborigine, Jimmie Blacksmith – very movingly portrayed by non-actor Tommy Lewis.
Set in central-western New South Wales in the 1890s, Jimmie is inevitably and tragically caught between the white society to which he aspires (he was raised by missionaries) and the aboriginal life which the white man has irreversibly corrupted.
As a half-caste, Jimmie is constantly being exploited by the white bosses whose approval he so conscientiously seeks and is cut off from the natural world of his black ancestors.
Pushed beyond endurance when his latest employers, the Newbys, withhold food from him and his hapless white wife, Gilda (Angela Punch McGregor), in an attempt to persuade her to leave Jimmie, he embarks on a bloodbath from which there is no turning back.
Taking to the bush with his fully-black half-brother Mort (Freddy Reynolds) Jimmie finds only temporary concealment but no comfort and his bloody end coincides with the birth of Australian nationhood and talk of Federation.
Based on a novel by Thomas Keneally, The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith had a budget of more than $1.2 million and was the most expensive Australian film made up to that time.
Despite the publicity attending the film’s making – the depth of rage on screen was absolutely unprecedented in Australian film at the time – and generally glowing reviews, the film failed commercially.
Angela Punch McGregor
Mr Jack Newby
Mrs Heather Newby