True Colours: Australian mystery series

Rarriwuy Hick in True Colours

True Colours stars Rarriwuy Hick and many other Indigenous Australian actors in a murder mystery. The four part series is slow moving police work coupled with a look into the lives of Indigenous people and how they exist with the white colonizers.

True Colours is set in a fictional community called Perdar Theendar, near Alice Springs. A young woman is murdered. Police detective Toni Alma (Rarriwuy Hick) is sent to the community by her boss, Inspector Meaks (Emma Jackson), because she grew up there.

We learn immediately that Toni can’t speak to several members of the community or be in their presence, but the boss sends her anyway. The cultural taboo that makes Toni unable to interact with certain people is not explained.

She’s related to about half the people she’s sent to investigate and it makes it an awkward balancing act to learn what happened.

There’s also a strong thematic conflict between the blackfella system of justice vs. the whitefella system of justice. Solving the murder is one thing, but choosing how to deal with the guilty party is a whole other discussion. Since Toni lives on both sides of this line, she’s always torn about what to do with what she learns.

Toni has just broken up with her boyfriend and police partner, Nick (Luke Arnold). After Toni realizes the young girl Mariah (Janaya Kopp) was actually murdered, Nick is sent to assist in the investigation.

Miranda Otto, Sabella Kngwarraye Ross Turner, and Warren H Williams in True Colours

Toni’s uncle Samuel Alma (Warren H Williams) is the police in the community. His sister is Toni’s mother Vivienne Alma (Sabella Kngwarraye Ross Turner). The white woman Isabelle (Miranda Otto), is in the midst of putting together a collection of Indigenous art to show in Paris.

Sabella Kngwarraye Ross Turner in True Colours

Toni’s mother as well as a number of other women spend their days painting large works that Isabelle will sell.

By the time the investigation is finished, Toni’s brother Brendan Alma (Kurt Abbott), her mother, and her uncle all seem involved in what happened. There’s art involved and a market for sacred and ancient art that the murdered girl was profiting from. Women aren’t even allowed to look at the sacred art created by men, yet it’s being taken away and sold.

The police work is slow and steady, but the real draw in this series is the look at Indigenous culture and customs. I thought that was much more interesting than the mystery that needed solving. The police case was just a way to explore some of those aspects of Australian life.

Erica Glynn directed half of the episodes. You can see the series on AMC+, Roku Channel, Sundance Now, Spectrum TV, Prime Video, Apple TV or Vudu. Here’s a link to the trailer.

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