The Skin of Others
Featuring acclaimed actor Balang T. E Lewis in his final performance, The Skin of Others tells the extraordinary story of Aboriginal WWI soldier, Douglas Grant.
By Anna Dowd
Grant was famous in his day as an intellectual, journalist, soldier, reader of Shakespeare and bagpipe player who could put on a fine Scottish accent.
Adopted when his parents were killed in a massacre in North Queensland, and raised in Sydney, his life went on to intersect with Adolf Hitler, Henry Lawson and other famous figures as he moved from Australia to Europe, and the UK and back.
Director Tom Murray first encountered Grant’s largely untold story in 2011 when researching the history of Aboriginal soldiers in WWI. From there, the film was 10 years in the making.
“My aim was to question some of the foundational events described in popular national histories of Australia. I hoped to depict the role of Aboriginal people in WWI, and properly acknowledge the Frontier Wars.”
Lewis joining the project was pivotal, and in the course of their creative partnership, he became a guide into understanding these histories, weaving parts of his own life into the film.
“Balang T.E. Lewis is the heart and soul of this film,” says Murray.
“Even the title is a nod to him and to the fact than an actor must, in some way, enter the skin of others. In the film, we learn lots about Douglas Grant, but we also learn about Balang – his acting process, his intellect, and his wonderful sense of humour and fun.”
Through the telling of Douglas Grant’s life, and through Lewis’ perspectives, Murray hopes to expose audiences to new ideas of thinking about Australia’s past and its future.
“Most of all, I would love it if people were able to consider Archie Roach’s invitation [in the film] to find a national meeting place, where we can all be authors of a transformative new story of coming-together," he says.
“Big hopes, I know, but Archie’s pretty compelling!”