Desert Feet Tour (Documentary) Review

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Genre: Music Documentary
Year Released: 2012
Distributor: Desert Feet Tour

Origin: Australia
Running Time: 15 minutes

Rating/Recommended Audience: G

Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: The Song Keeper, In Between Songs, Murundak, Throw Down Your Heart, Latcho Drom


-This documentary is streaming on YouTube.

Fun Facts:

-Desert Feet Tour currently has four artists on their label: Wild Dingo Band, Rocky Ridge Band, Kiwirrkurra Band, and Kankawa Nagarra AKA Olive Knight.

-Kiwirkurra Band was featured briefly. They’re named after their hometown in Western Australia and have only 165 people living there according to the last Australian census.

-Aborigines make up 3.3% of the total Australian population.

-Desert Feet was founded by Damien Thornber and Emily Minchin from the band Damien Thornber & The Orphans. The label and organization were founded in 2008 and officially had a label in 2011.

At Iridium Eye, I’ve covered dozens and dozens of countries. There have been some places where I’ve reviewed their cinema that most people haven’t even heard of and sometimes more than once. I do hope I’m able to expose people to the world cinema stage. Unfortunately, there’s one country that only had one of their films reviewed and it’s a country everyone knows: Australia. To all the Aussies out there (especially Ashley and Karandi), I’m very sorry. Yes, I’ve seen Australian movies before like He Died With a Falafel In His Hands during my high school years, but the only other thing I reviewed as part of an anthology DVD was an Australian/South African production called Inja. That was nearly three years ago. This changes today as I went back to the Land Down Under (metaphorically speaking) to find something to review.

This would be a more musical project, but we’re not talking about AC/DC, Men At Work, Newsboys, Parkway Drive, or God forbid…Iggy Azalea [shudders].

Desert Feet Tour is a company, charitable organization, and record label that specializes in Aborigine music from the Western part of the country. They were started by a folk band from Perth. They do their best to provide music classes for the multiple Aboriginal communities, album distribution for various artists or bands, teach music production, and they have a truck that works as a mobile sound stage for the musicians to perform. In addition to the music education and production, these musicians are encouraged to make albums (live and/or studio works) using their indigenous languages besides just English and they even incorporate contemporary genres such as rock, rap, blues, and folk.

This was on a whim because I knew nothing about Aboriginal music until I checked out a Bandcamp article from a couple of years ago of all things. I was exposed to Olive Knight and went to find out more about these other talented musicians. This was very eye-opening to me checking out the music and eventually stumbling upon this short documentary. I’m glad the Aborigines are able to preserve their culture in a fun way with music. Knowing more about their plight in their own country is quite saddening with poverty, lack of resources, racial discrimination, and other bad things happening that are not their fault. There are even the aftereffects of rampant colonization when Australia was a British penal colony and how several nations were decimated. For example, there’s no one on this earth who can say that they are a descendant of a native Tasmanian to this day (props to the late Dr. John Henrik Clarke for that fact when talking about the Tasmanian Genocide). This record label isn’t just about great native tunes or teaching people music, this is also meant to be an act of reconciliation for the indigenous people of Australia. I will say the music was quite unique even if some of the songs had some familiar musical genres albeit spoken in different languages. It was fun seeing the concert footage in the truck, the classes, or some of the rehearsals. Besides that, the camera work is certainly serviceable with a mixture of professional cameras and some subtle smartphone footage. The interviews were quite insightful as everything was clear on the agenda. One thing that I have to give major respect to mention is how Desert Feet is able to secure the rights and royalties to their signees which is amazing. I’m glad that the label didn’t want to give these Aborigines the Solomon Linda treatment like what was documented in The Lion’s Share, so I have to give them credit for them instead of exploiting the population.

Desert Feet Tour does get a bit dusty at times. I wish the bands would be focused more often besides some brief interviews and sound clips here and there. If I didn’t know anything about Olive Knight, I would have no clue about anyone else affiliated with that record label besides the Kiwirrkurra Band who was the only one named and featured near the end. I wanted to know about all the bands and singers involved. While this documentary doesn’t go full-on white savior/white man’s burden syndrome, I did wish that the Aborigines would get equal interview time much like the owners and other top employees. There was an obvious imbalance with who got to talk, so I wanted to see more of the indigenous people talking about their experiences and everything. Going slightly off-tangent I thought Damien wasn’t as passionate about the subject matter as much as the other interviewees. One big thing that really made me super confused was the lack of credits. Who directed this? Who are the interviewees that didn’t say their names? Who produced this documentary? This really threw me off.

This Australian documentary was a good watch. I certainly learned things about this label and how there are people doing good things for the Aboriginal communities. I certainly respect those that are putting in work to make sure there is reconciliation going on even though the music shouldn’t be the only thing (that’s a story for another day). The footage and music were good. I do wish there was a more diverse and balanced set of interviews though. Desert Feet Tour was worth watching and I want to check out more art from the indigenous people in the biggest country in Oceania.

Adjustable Rating System:

Add 1-2 points if you like Aborigine art and music.
Add 1 point if you like music documentaries.
Subtract 1-2 points if you want more balanced interviews.

-Good cinematography
-Very intriguing music
-The Desert Feet organization has good intentions


-Unknown credits
-There should’ve been more interview time with the Aborigines
-Damien wasn’t as passionate as others were

Final Score: 7/10 points

Content Warning: Desert Feet Tour is a safe watch. The worse things are talk about poverty and how the Aborigine communities were under-served, but that’s it.

-Curtis Monroe

All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. Desert Feet Tour is property of Desert Feet Tour. The screenshot is from YouTube and is property of Desert Feet Tour.

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