beDevil(1993) directed by Tracey Moffat is an experimental feminist film. Tracey Moffat is an Australian Aboriginal raised by white parents so her films are often about being a person of color and a woman in Australia. beDevil is her one and only feature work, but she has made several short films. Moffat’s feature film is told through a couple of stories that weave in and out of each other.
The first story is told in a documentary like style combined with a standard scripted movie approach.
An Aboriginal man in jail tells the story of a mysterious white U.S. soldier who haunts a lake near where he lived as a child. The lake used to swallow people up. His stories are interwoven with images of him as a child living in an abusive home and dealing with white Australians treating him like a pariah along with an interview with an older white Australian woman in a beautiful colorful house talking about how she used to let the Aboriginal boy steal candy. It seems she knew about the abuse. The old woman talked about wanting to adopt the Aboriginal boy several times.
This story brings up the history of how the Australians used to steal Aboriginal children and bring them up in the white western world. The film questions of what is the right thing to do when you’re a White Australian having to deal with Aboriginal children.
The second story is most experimental of the lot. It is about a blind girl ghosts who haunts the train tracks near this multi-generational Aboriginal family’s home. At the start of the story a Chinese Australian man tells the tale of the haunted train in this Australian History Museum. Moffat tries to express the multi-ethnic reality of all Australians. This story ends with a middle age Aboriginal woman and her friends re-visting the site of the house that was haunted.
The last story within the film is about an Italian Australian family who are landlords with Aboriginal tenants. The father kicks them all out so he can sell the building to a Gambling house. One of the tenants is thought to be a mystic woman whose son died with his lover in an apartment fire years ago. The son sees the spirits of the Aboriginal son and the young woman. There is this cool magical sense to this story as the son skates around during the night watching the ghosts dance.
I would recommend beDevil to my readers who enjoy discussion of Post Colonial politics, feminist texts, Australian films, experimental films, experimental dramas by Aboriginal women, films dealing with Aboriginal history and the mixed ethnic population of Australia.
Stacey Moffat does her best not to demonize anybody, but brings up discussions of what its means to be a woman and a Aboriginal raised in a white universe.