Earlier this year, as part of an initiative to support and promote Indigenous filmmakers, NITV and the Media Resource Centre commissioned five filmmakers to write and direct short documentaries on subjects of their choice. These documentaries will be screened in 2013 and 2014 on NITV, giving emerging Indigenous filmmakers the chance to tell the stories that mean so much to them. Mercury Cinema had the honour of hosting a preview screening of these films, which serve to celebrate talent and remind us of the complex and stunning stories that often don’t see the spotlight.
The first documentary, Our Mob Dance, written and directed by Shirleen McLaughlin, is the story of her family’s move from Alice Springs to Adelaide and how the support of a local dance group, Kururru, helped them settle into city life. It is an encouraging film that promotes preservation and remembrance, featuring some beautiful dancing and important messages.
Barbara’s World, written and directed by Edoardo Crismani, is a charming film told almost entirely through interview with the lovely and witty Barbara. It recounts the history of the Stolen Generation and Barbara’s father, a featherweight boxing champion and caring dad, who lived and suffered in that time. Barbara’s World is a short film to make you laugh, cry and, more importantly, reflect on the past.
Chris Callaghan tells the story of a young Aboriginal man pursuing dreams of hip-hop stardom in Stinga-T. This film follows Stinga-T (Thibul Nettle), actor and hip-hop artist, who has become a role model for many, not just in his community but further afield. This film is an inspiring and well-shot tale that proves many positives can come out of a genre often associated with violence and criminal behaviour.
Through the Eyes of Grace, by Dylan Coleman, is an emotional and personal film dedicated to Coleman’s mother and wider family. It tells us about the happy times and miserable times of a childhood spent in a Lutheran Mission. Of all the films presented, this was perhaps the most touching. Mercy’s story is incredibly moving and honest, and is accompanied by adorable re-enactments shot to look like old films.
The final film, Uncle Matey, is a bit more light-hearted but just as important as the rest. Written and directed by Garth Agius, this is the story of Australia’s oldest Aboriginal man. Uncle Matey, who walked from New South Wales to South Australia, lived for over a hundred years and hung out with Ned Kelly during his life, He is a man worthy of tribute. Agius’ film utilises archival tapes, photos and interviews in a highly professional manner to tell this amazing tale.
There was a definite sense of community in the cinema, creating a positive, friendly and respectful atmosphere, which is something wonderful to experience. While each documentary was filmed with a low budget, they all managed to convey complex and stimulating stories. Hopefully this initiative will serve well in promoting these important messages and gather much-deserved recognition for emerging Indigenous filmmakers across Australia.
The documentaries will be screening on the SBS free-to-air Indigenous television station NITV Channel 34 in December 2013 and into 2014.
Reviewed by James Rudd