Determined to tell a story that could be told only in Australia by Australians, Charles Chauvel made Jedda—the first Australian feature film to use Aboriginal actors in the lead roles and the first to be filmed in colour.

Set in the Northern Territory, it is the tragic story of a young Aboriginal girl of the Arrernte tribe, adopted by a white woman, Sarah McCann, as a surrogate for her own baby who has died. She names the baby Jedda after a wild bird and raises her as a white child, isolating her from Aboriginal contact. But when Marbuck, an Aboriginal man seeking work arrives on the station, Jedda is fascinated by him.

Marbuck takes the half-willing teenage girl as his captive, returning to his tribal lands, only to find he is rejected by his tribe for breaking the marriage traditions. The two are hounded from the tribe and chased by the men from Jedda's home station, until Marbuck is driven mad, and falls over a cliff to his death, together with Jedda.



Rosalie Kunoth-Monks - Jedda
Robert Tudawali - Marbuck (renegade tribesman)
Release dates
May 5th, 1955 - Australia (Premiere January 3rd, 1955 Star Theatre, Darwin)
1956 - UK (73 min)
1957 - USA (73 min)
Video/DVD release date
November 2004 on DVD after 2 years of restoration work.
PG - Parental guidance
Isadore Goodman; 'Dreamtime For Jedda', released on a 78rpm vinyl (2:29)

Jedda is available through National Film and Sound Archives, Urban Cinefile or ScreenSound Australia

The film was Charles Chauvel's last film. Chauvels' daughter, Susanne Chauvel Carlsson, introduced it on video.

In Great Britain and the United States, the film was distributed as Jedda the Uncivilised.

Research was carried out by Bill Harney.

It was the first Australian film to ever be made in colour.

Jedda was the first colour feature made by an Australian company. It was the first Australian film to use Aboriginal actors in lead roles - its exploration of the clash of cultures was progressive for its time. It was the first Australian film to be shown at the Cannes Film Festival. Due to the early film material used the film was entirely lost until 1972 when special backup copies allowed a full restoration.

Half-Cast Joe, the narrator and male lead, was played by a white actor in blackface.

Ngarla Kunoth, who played Jedda in this film, is now a prominent Aboriginal rights activist, Rosalie Kunoth-Monks.

A documentary tracks the life of Robert Tudawali.

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Cite this page

Korff, J 2018, Jedda, <>, retrieved 20 July 2024

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