BY JARROD WOLHUTER
Wash my soul in the flow of the river is a musical documentary by National Treasure, Archie Roach. Through the concert par excellence, Kura Tungar – River Songs (2004), Archie and legendary First Nations singer-songwriter Ruby Hunter work with the 22-piece Australian Art Orchestra. This acts as the perfect canvas for Roach to deliver a powerful backstory.
The documentary is largely the story of two stories: the first is one of love and camaraderie between the two First Nations musicians as they meet and navigate life together through homelessness, alcoholism and artistic achievement in musical history and truth. The second story is a tragic preamble to the duo’s challenges through Australia’s shameful Stolen Generations, where Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families – by government mandate – from the years 1869 to 1969; when Archie and Ruby were caught.
Images of river systems and land punctuate the film and are accompanied by moving sayings, analogies and comparisons between First Nations people and land, and how bloodstreams are to First Nations people what systems rivers are in the country. This story succeeds in demonstrating the deep spiritual connection that First Nations peoples have with the Australian landscape.
Wash my soul in the flow of the river counterbalances these heavy themes with scenes of light-hearted banter and playful teasing between Archie and Ruby whose love for each other is palpable and moving. It is these scenes that speak to the character and determination of the two musicians who admit that songwriting and the ability to laugh and joke are the tools used to help them overcome their traumas.
Beautiful, sad, hilarious, “a musical journey through love and country – tungar-indjeri pal-urmi tunkun-ambi wunyi ruwi”.