Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Bran Nue Dae (Brand New Day)

About the Film
Year Released: 
Running Time: 

In her second time at the Sundance Film Festival, Rachel Perkins brings to the screen an adaptation of Jimmy Chi’s popular stage musical Bran Nue Dae, which was a national hit in Australia. It’s the summer of 1969, and with his evangelical mother pointing him toward the priesthood, earnest young Willie (Rocky McKenzie) attends a Catholic boarding school in Perth but, protesting its strict rules, runs away to his homeland. With Father Benedictus (Geoffrey Rush) in hot pursuit, he heads back to Broome, acquiring traveling companions along the way.

With songs and dances rooted in traditional Aboriginal performance, blues, rock and roll, Hollywood musicals, and the rituals of the Roman Catholic Mass, Willie sings and dances his way back to his own land and inspires the people around him to find their own truth. The colors of Aboriginal Australia shimmer in this wonderfully exuberant film, giving viewers a joyful romp while simultaneously touching on Aboriginal history and politics in a way that leaves us all wanting to be Aborigines.

— N. Bird Runningwater, Sundance Institute
Film Director: 
Production Info
Reported or Estimated Budget: 
$6815253 (converted from AUD)
(Broome, Fremantle, Kununurra, Perth), Western Australia
Categories About the Film
history and memory
interracial relations
rural life
Racial/Ethnic Affiliation: 
Filmmaking Team
Writer's Name: 
Reg Cribb, Rachel Perkins, Jimmy Chi
Graeme Isaac, Robyn Kershaw
Andrew Lesnie
Primary Cast: 
Rocky McKenzie, Jessica Mauboy, Ernie Dingo, Missy Higgins, Geoffrey Rush, Tom Budge, Ningali Lawford, Deborah Mailman
Exhibition/Distribution Info
Freestyle Releasing
Box Office Earnings: 
Where to find it/How to get it: 
DVD widely available

Debuted at Melbourne International Film Festival, debuted internationally at Toronto International Film Festival, went to Sundance Film Festval.

  • Awards:  Australian Film Institute Award for best supporting actress for Deborah Mailman
  • Film Critics Circle of Australia Award for best music score for Cezary Skubiszewski
  • Melbourne International Film Festival award for most popular feature film
Personal Film Review and Cultural Context: 

Loosely based on the acclaimed Australian stage musical, Bran Nue Dae follows Willie as he faces shame at his Catholic boarding school because he is an aborigine and then starts a personal rebellion to make his way home to his love, Rosie. Daughter of notable Aborigine activist, Charles Perkins, award-winning director Rachel Perkins has worked tirelessly to promote indigenous filmmakers and here has created a hilarious and accessible film that keeps your toes tapping and your spirits up. Bran Nue Dae is one of very few films in the public eye that represent people of aboriginal descent in a more lively way that avoids stereotypes and still has fun along the way. Offset by the dry, dusty plains of Western Australia, the choreography is bright and playful, mixing traditional and modern moves. Making his way across this landscape, Willie picks up eccentric and unusual friends. With a surprise ending, the film plays with family configurations and shows us how journeys to find ourselves can often result in finding new parts we never knew we had. Written by Delia Bloom