06/10/2015 11:40 BST | Updated 11/01/2016 07:59 GMT

David Bowie's 'Let's Dance' Video: Documentary Proved Progressive Ambitions Of Pop's Great Pioneer

The news this morning of David Bowie's death has left his fans shocked, saddened but also reflective of his unique legacy on popular culture.


Only a few weeks ago in his first home town of Brixton, South London, there debuted a behind-the-scenes documentary proving how far ahead of his time he was, with his iconic 'Let's Dance' video. Here's a reminder...

Joining other artists including Kate Bush and Aussie rockers Midnight Oil in using their music to illuminate the history of Australia’s indigenous population, pop's great chameleon travelled to a remote town in the outback to film the video of him performing in a local bar.

David Bowie in 'Let's Dance'

More than three decades later, filmmakers Ed Gibbs and Rubika Shah have made their own pilgrimage to Carinda, and met some of the locals who can still remember that strange day one of the world’s biggest rock stars blew into town.

“It hasn’t changed,” says Rubika. “Locals still seek shade in the pub at midday. And we came across Bernie, the last remaining local to feature in the video. Thirty years later, he was still a sheep shearer.”

Joelene King, one half of the romantic couple featured in the video, speaks in the film about her five minutes of fame. “I was happy to meet her, but it made me sad as well,” says Rubika. “Her life might have been different had she had better opportunities.” Joelene says herself of the video, "It showed the world that Australia’s got a black history.”

Joelene King was one half of the young couple featured in the video

Rubika tells HuffPostUK her own first memories of the video, directed by David Mallet and David Bowie, which accompanied Bowie’s 1983 mega-hit, were all of the colours, the landscape, a freshly-blonde Bowie himself.

“I remember seeing it on MTV, and I was blown away by Bowie looking so different, so cute, so normal, and then I realised it was the outback. You don’t actually realise it’s in Australia until the end.

“Bowie made this video just as music videos were coming into their own, and it was shot like a film feature.”

David Bowie was ahead of his time with his portrait of Australia's indigenous history

Sure enough, the detail seen through new eyes is mind-boggling, including one scene of a woman washing dirt on the road, a symbol of the Australian government’s practice of whitewashing a lot of indigenous history, including forcibly removing children from their families in a state policy, for which then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd later apologised in 2008.

‘Let’s Dance’ remains David Bowie’s bestselling album, with the video for the title track the most viewed of all his many videos.

“That video’s been with me all my adult life, but I had no idea of all the political implications until I lived in Australia myself, and travelled around, and saw all that was going on,” marvels Rubika now.

“But Bowie somehow tapped into all of it, back in 1983. He was just waiting for the rest of us to catch up.”

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