Brand New Day (Bran Nu Dae)

| September 18, 2011

Brand New Day (or Bran Nu Dae, according to the original Aborigine spelling of the title) is a 2009 Australian musical film. It was not released in the US until 2011, where it went straight to DVD.
The film starts out with a cute paper animation, and right away audiences can tell that race has a lot to do with the film. An angel, standing atop a cloud, is whisked away and replaced by a similar looking angel with dark skin. Throughout the film, some of the non-aborigine people make racist remarks and have ignorant attitudes toward the black Australians, but by the end, most of their minds are changed.
The film is set in Broome, Australia, in 1969. Willie (Rocky McKenzie), a young man in the town, is sent away to boarding school. He has dreams of becoming a priest, but after the tables turn, he starts off on a musical adventure all the way home, meeting memorable characters like Slippery, Annie, and Uncle Tadpole along the way.
The film feels a bit like an Australian Disney movie, but with an edgier side and a little more talent. Willie’s girlfriend, Rosie (Jessica Mauboy) , really stands out. Her voice has qualities similar to that of Lauryn Hill, Christina Aguilera, and Demi Lovato. The genres of music in this film range from gospel to country to electronic, and there’s even a [really poorly done] traditional musical number. Unlike most musicals, however, the dance sequences are very casual and they feel real. For the most part, they’re not cheesy and overbearing like most musicals.
One may find it hard to take this movie seriously. Of course, it is a musical (how seriously are we supposed to take those?), but some of the more innovative and original aspects have a very juvenile feel to them. One example of this is a short musical number where Willie is lying in bed singing, and the other boys at the boarding school sing backup as they sleep. The silly sound effects when the boys are being mischievous and sneaking around don’t really help, either. I had some trouble distinguishing whom this film was geared toward, exactly. It could have been a children’s film, if not for the bold sexual references made throughout and the excessive drug and alcohol use.
The cinematography is nice; it’s colorful, but the tones are slightly muted. Various shades of yellow, red, and blue intrigue the eye. There are some unusual camera techniques, but this could just be the result of an eye trained for American camera techniques. Once in a while, the camera will make Rosie laugh in slow motion, or do a sped-up zoom shot, or something else original.
Unfortunately, these add to the amateur, childish feel the movie gives off. Also, although I felt the filmmakers were going for that “indie” feel, mainstreamed individuals like Missy Higgins and Geoffrey Rush made it seem a bit more like a pop-culture creation.
Brand New Day is based on a play, and it’s apparent that there was a bit of a struggle in the transition to making it a movie. It has its ups and downs; its clever moments and its eye roll worthy moments, but what B-movie doesn’t? Overall, Brand New Day is mildly entertaining.

About the Author:

Caress is a grad student from Chicago who has a deep fascination with film. Her love for movies began as an undergraduate at Roosevelt University, where her teacher suggested she write a movie review. Caress' favorite genres include indie dramas, foreign films, experimental films, and psychological thrillers. When she's not watching movies, Caress enjoys writing, photography, travel, fashion and music.
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