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Here I Am

Australia 2011
Directed by
Beck Cole
90 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Andrew Lee
3.5 stars

Here I Am

A small and punchy film about life at the pointy end of racism, Here I Am is a strong entry into the growing canon of Australian indigenous cinema. With films like Samson and Delilah (2009) and this year's Mad Bastards, it’s beginning to feel like there’s maybe a new wave of filmmakers telling their stories.

Karen (Shai Pittman) has just been released from prison. Staying in a women’s halfway house she attempts to get her life back on track and regain access to her daughter, Rosie (Ouinaiha Scott). But her mother Lois (Professor Marcia Langton) has custody and she isn’t quick to forgive.

You will initially have to be a little forgiving as particularly in the early stages  dialogue appears to be read off cue-cards with no sense of timing and you will find yourself wishing they’d had the opportunity to go back and reshoot. It’s really a shame because other than this, Here I Am is a really wonderful film.

Shai Pittman is a talented actress and her performance is excellent. The supporting characters are all really interesting too, and the second half of Here I Am is made up of excellent and sometimes hilarious scenes detailing the struggles and the sad histories of the women at the house. There’s a deeply affecting scene as the women sing along to Archie Roach’s “Walking Into Doors”, while the tension between compassion and the law is dramatised in another wrenching moment. The small ways in which the accidental neglect of do-gooders can have serious repercussions on the people they support is also neatly handled. The mother/daughter conflict is really solid, with some pointed words about how important forgiveness is in letting people learn from their past. Without hope, without a sense of release, it’s all too easy to return to the things that ruin you.

Here I Am is far from perfect, but it’s still powerful and affecting viewing. Much like the characters it depicts, it starts out rough and wobbly, but grows into something far more confident and mature. It is definitely worth seeing.




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