2018 - Winner
In We Don’t Need a Map, director Warwick Thornton boldly goes where very many have gone before: the significances of the constellation of the Southern Cross. Behind its banal and jaded modern existence as a patriotic totem, he finds a rich Indigenous prehistory and an implicit rebuke of settlement mythology, not to mention a unique astronomical personality.
In heavier hands, the tale might still have come off as a lecture or sermon. Thornton mines his enquiries for their subversive energy with what turns into something like a road movie. The documentary takes us from the pristine skies of Arnhem Land to the tattoo parlours of Kings Cross, to which some — disturbed by the symbol’s co-opting — have returned for the purposes of having their Southern Cross markings removed.
There’s a refreshing sense in We Don’t Need a Map of a filmmaker setting forth and finding the story, rather than knowing from the beginning what that story is, with crisp editing by Andrea Lang adding to the zest. Thornton is good company; he can be both scathing and satiric; he also listens, to a series of excellent commentators, including Bruce Pascoe, Ghassan Hage and Omar Musa.