“In the last ten years, First Nations stories have become more acceptable”: Wayne Blair and Deborah Mailman on The New Boy
Warwick Thornton’s latest work, The New Boy positions itself within the raw, tumultuous setting of 1940s Australia, straddling the second world war. The film takes us on a stirring journey, offering a deep dive into the life of an Indigenous boy within the austere walls of a monastery orphanage – a world marred by Western values and Christian doctrines. Herein, the boy’s enigmatic aura and unorthodox abilities not only challenge the delicate equilibrium of the institution but also breathe new life into it. At the centre of this narrative whirlwind are two indomitable Aboriginal characters: George, brought to life by Wayne Blair, and Sister Mum, as convincingly portrayed by Deborah Mailman.
At Cannes Film Festival, we sat down with Blair and Mailman. Reflecting on the film, they offered fascinating insight into their characters’ roles as custodians for the orphanage’s boys and drew intriguing comparisons with their personal experiences. They also shared openly their on-set challenges, from combating capricious weather conditions and adhering to Covid-19 protocols to cultivating a relaxed and congenial atmosphere amidst the pressures of filming.
Of particular interest were their thoughts on The New Boy‘s exploration of spirituality, the clash between tradition and evolution, and the intricate dance between Indigenous spiritual practices and Christianity. They also offered us a glimpse into their enduring relationship with director Warwick Thornton, one they described as a voyage anchored in trust and mutual understanding.
Video: Selina Sondermann
The New Boy does not have a UK release date yet. Read our review here.