The Old Man And The Inland Sea

Australian Workers Film Guide


Beautifully filmed in a stunning sunburnt landscape, this short documentary is an emotive and poetic portrait of Aboriginal opal miner Norman Hayes Jagamarra. After working as a drover, Hayes moved to Cooper Pedy many years ago, where he works as a ‘noodler’ sifting through left over mining heaps in search of valuable opals.

Intimately connected with the barren and harsh landscape, we see Hayes digging for opals and reflecting on the changes he has seen over the years. Rejecting the age pension in favour of work, a dignified and proud man he laments the devastation that alcohol has wrought on aboriginal communities, the unwillingness of the young to work and the greed of ‘white fellas’ with noodling machines and bulldozers stripping the landscape of opals at the expense of local indigenous people.

The film is a moving tribute to the dignity of work and indigenous connection to place and community. The filmmaker Warwick Thorton would later achieve international acclaim with films such as Samson and Delilah and Sweet Water.

Special Notes/Achievements

  • Broadcast on NITV.

Author: J Bird, 2023

Duration: 20 mins 26 secs

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