Zach's Ceremony

Zach’s Ceremony follows a city-raised boy and his quest to reconnect with his Indigenous roots as he goes through the ancient rite of initiation. Fuelled by passion, a father and son’s tense and often combative relationship brings into sharp relief the clash of two worlds and the struggle modern-day Australians face connecting with the oldest living culture in the world.

'In Sydney, they call me a blackfella; at home they call me a whitefella.
I don't know who I am.'
Zach Doomadgee 2012

This is the deeply personal conflict at the core of 'Zach's Ceremony,' a rite of passage story about a boy who straddles two contrasting worlds – urban and rural, ancient and modern, black and white.

Zach’s family is proudly Aboriginal and carries the surname from their remote Indigenous homeland, Doomadgee, in northern Australia. The name is most commonly associated with Cameron Doomadgee, their relative who died controversially in Palm Island under police custody in 2004. This film, however, centres on 14-year-old Zach and his father Alec, who are based in Sydney.

Alec has a strong connection to his Aboriginal heritage and encourages his son to be ‘out there’ with his culture. He sees Zach as an Aboriginal man of the future because of the way he looks – he has the best of both worlds, according to Alec: modern city life in Sydney and traditional Aboriginal life in Doomadgee.

Zach, however, like many Indigenous kids in modern-day Australia, is caught between two worlds – torn between a clash of cultures and struggling to work out who he is and where he belongs. He is also a boy on the cusp of manhood and his relationship with his father has become increasingly tense due to the trauma of the teens – sex, drugs, violence and teenage angst.

Alec believes his son needs to connect with his culture to help him reconcile the racism he is encountering. Returning to Doomadgee will set him on the right path, far from the negative influences of the city, and will enable him to undergo his initiation ceremony to become a man – just as Alec once did as a young boy.

In whitefella world, this rite of passage is often considered controversial. In blackfella world, it’s the only way to become a man.

But in Doomadgee there’s more drama – the ceremony is delayed, the wet season is looming, different mobs are in dispute and it seems as though Zach’s Ceremony will not take place after all…and then there’s a breakthrough and the elders arrive. Zach is finally on the cusp – not just of manhood but of discovering his identity.

Filmed over five years, ‘Zach’s Ceremony’ is an emotional and transformative story; the narrative is personal but the core themes of identity and self-discovery are universal.

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