Where the Green Ants Dream (Australian Mining Themed Movie – 1984)


Where the Green Ants Dream (German: Wo die grünen Ameisen träumen) is a 1984 film by German film director Werner Herzog. It was Herzog’s first film in English although also dubbed into German. Based partly on the Milirrpum v Nabalco Pty Ltd case and making use of professional actors as well as Aboriginal activists who were involved in the case, it was a mix of facts and fiction. The ant mythology was claimed as Herzog’s own, however some natives did consider the green ant as the totem animal that created the world and humans.

Wandjuk Marika noted that the ant dreaming belief existed in a clan that lived near Oenpelli in the Northern Territory.[1] The film is set in the Australian desert and is about a land feud between a mining company (which he called Ayers to avoid any legal threats from Nabalco) and the native Aborigines. The Aborigines claim that an area the mining company wishes to work on is the place where green ants dream, and that disturbing them will destroy humanity. The film was entered in the 1984 Cannes Film Festival.[2]

Marika, recommended to Herzog by Phillip Adams, was a leader for the Rirratjingu people, an artist and musician who was involved in activism for Aboriginal rights. His didgeridoo music is used in the movie and several members of his family were cast in the film. The contract with Herzog allowed the Marikas to make enough money to move from Yirrkala to their ancestral region of Yalanbara, Port Bradshaw.[1]

Critics of the film found it uncomfortably placed between a documentary and a feature film. Phillip Adams was particularly incensed and claimed that the film implied that the Australian Government was against the Aborigines, leading him to write an article titled Dammit Herzog, you are a Liar!’.[1][3]

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