The Bye Bye Man
The Bye Bye Man is the kind of film that is so boring and bereft of anything of possible interest that it becomes infuriating.
One of the wonders that a good movie can sometimes achieve is to take us entirely outside the framework of the society to which it will eventually be shown. Fred Schepisi's “The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith,” an Australian film about a half-aborigine who goes on a savage murder spree against whites, is a movie like that. Its story is told entirely in the moral terms of the raw Australian outback of about 1900, and the racial attitudes in the movie are firmly drawn from that period.
That's one of the things that makes the movie fascinating. Too many movies about race are established in the past but contain the attitudes of the present -- so that, for example, Muhammad Ali as a slave in “Freedom Road” need say nothing that Muhammad Ali as a TV star in 1979 did not feel like saying. And so we get contemporary pieties about the past, and they do great damage because they hide the past itself from us.
“The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith” re-creates its other time so well that we come out of the theater in substantial identification with its hero. We do not condone him, but we understand him. Jimmie Blacksmith in this movie kills a large number of innocent white people, including women and children. But he does not do so for reasons of the radical politics of hate. He does so, basically, because racism has driven him mad without even giving him the vocabulary he needs to be able to say that it is racism.
Jimmie is a half-breed, born of an Aborigine mother and a white father who took his sexual convenience in the nearby Aborigine settlement. Jimmie is raised by a white missionary couple, who advise him to marry a white girl from a nearby farm "because then your children will be only a quarter black, and your grandchildren hardly black at all."