Wash My Soul in the River's Flow (2021)

Wash My Soul in the River's Flow is a cinematic reinvention of a legendary concert that premiered in 2004. Kura Tungar-Songs from the River was a collaboration between First Nations singer-songwriters Archie Roach and Ruby Hunter ...
  • 8.8 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2022-08-01 Added:
  • Writer:
  • Philippa Bateman, Director:
  • Kate Hodges, Producer:


10 / 10

Magnificent musical storytelling; You are invited to watch and listen, but it should be compulsory.

This movie is many things. It is foremost a wonderful music film centring on the mighty River Murray as presented in songs written by First Nations artists Ruby Hunter and Archie Roach.

It describes their life-long love affair after finding each other in the Salvation Army shelter. Both were homeless and drinking heavily after suffering the trauma of being stolen from their parents.

Centring on a concert in Melbourne in 2004, Kura Tungar - Songs from the River, which was a collaboration between Archie and Ruby, working with pianist Paul Grabowsky and the 22-piece Australian Art Orchestra, it combines footage of conversations with Archie and Ruby, rehearsals of the songs, the opening night, and breathtaking images of Hunter's Ngarrindjeri country in South Australia.

The opening scenes are of a sunset over the Coorong and there are many arresting aerial and other vistas of the banks and cliffs of the river accompanying the musical storytelling. Rather than Hunter's and Roach's usual spare guitar work, the music for the concert and film is provided by the Australian Art Orchestra which comprises trumpet, trombone, clarinet, strings and percussion, and is brilliantly embellished by Paul Grabowsky's keyboard flourishes. The songs tend to be in jazz stylings, but there are also symphonic soundscapes.

Centre stage, of course, are the haunting voices of the two outstanding artists; Archie's high vibrato and Ruby's low register resonance. They are heroic characters who have emerged from trauma through homelessness to achieve the status of respected elders and beloved celebrities. The film is an exquisite portrait of them at the peak of their powers, shortly before Ruby's death, and is a profoundly moving story of loss, love and the meanings of coming 'home'. There are many touching and heartrending moments along with plenty of giggles. The film will resonate globally, though it's deeply connected to South Australia.

You are invited to watch and listen, but it should be compulsory. The film has many songs including outstanding and triumphant renditions of 'They Took The Children Away', 'Ngarrendjeri Woman' and 'Into The Bloodstream'.