Meet the woman who brings Aboriginal cinema Paris

The first Festival of Australian Aboriginal Cinema will feature films that have won awards at Cannes but may be unfamiliar to the audiences of one of the world capitals of film culture. This is the first festival of its kind in Europe.

The Conversation, as part of the festival launch, asked two experts in Indigenous storytelling, one French and one Australian, to ask Festival Director Greta Moreton-Elangue questions.

Sandra Phillips, Queensland University of Technology

Why is it important to host an Indigenous Film Festival in Paris? What made you make this decision and why?

I was aware of the increasing success of film festivals like FIFO in Tahiti ( Festival International du Film Documentaire Oceanien ) and ImagineNATIVE, both of which showcase Indigenous Australian Cinema each year.

The lack of a festival dedicated exclusively to Australian Indigenous Cinema was absurd, especially given the wide range of films that have enjoyed great success in the festival circuit.

Marlene Cummins is in Redfern’s Gym, Sydney, for Black Panther Woman. Blackfella Films/Alina Gozin

Do French film-goers have a greater appreciation for art and stories from First Nations Australia?

For more than 25 Years, the French have recognized Australian indigenous cinematic talent.

The first indigenous Australian film to be selected for the Cannes Film Festival was Night Cries, A Rural Tragedy in 1989. In 1993, her first feature, Bedevil, was released (Un Certain Regard). This was then followed by Warwick Thornton’s Samson and Delilah (Camera D’Or 2009), Ivan Sen’s Toomelah (Un Certain Regard 2011), and Wayne Blair’s The Sapphires (Cannes 2012).

Tracey Moffett’s Bedevil Festival du Cinema Aborigene Australien

The tradition of storytelling is omnipresent in Indigenous culture, whether it’s through painting, song da,nce, or cinema. The tradition of storytelling is a way of affirming the community. This unique aspect of Indigenous Australian culture makes it so distinct.

Parallel to the Festival, we’ve organized an exhibit of Indigenous art so that people who are interested in discovering the work of artists from the communities where our films were shot can do so.

Your selection includes a variety of films that portray First Nations Australia in varying styles. What influenced your film choices?

Our program includes films by a generation of filmmakers who were born during the politically charged decade of the 1960s and 70s following the Referendum that included Aboriginals in the Australian Census.

Films are a testament to the complexity of Australian communities today. This new generation of filmmakers is the first in Australia to recognize the transformative power that cinema has and to get behind the camera to present a brand-new vision of Australia.

We have a wide range of films, from documentaries to shorts. We are also excited to have the new indigenous TV series Cleverman included in our festival.

Geraldine Le Roux, Université de Bretagne Occidentale

In France, “aboriginals” are often associated with an ancient culture and the Australian wilderness. They also conjure up images of traditional “dot-painters” in the central desert. What can your choice of films do in order to dispel these stereotypes and prejudices?

Our festival includes films from a variety of genres, including musicals, murder mysteries, science fiction, and superheroes. A special selection of award-winning documentaries from the FIFO Festival is also available. This is a post-colonial program.

Adam Briggs in Cleverman as Malayan. Red Arrow International

Since the 1970s, Aboriginal art, in all of its forms, has been moving from Australia’s artists’ studios to galleries in Europe and the United States. Artists often accompany their work as a means for communities to control how their culture and art are represented, including the political implications. Do you think that directors and actors would accompany their films in future editions?

Cinema La Clef is located in the 5th arrondisement of Paris. LPLTCC BY-NC-SA

Three key partners made our first edition possible: the Australian Embassy, the Ville de Paris, and Tourism Australia.

It is important to have the actors and filmmakers present at the festival in order to strengthen the relationship between the audience members and the films. The second edition’s main goal is to make it easier for a filmmaker delegation to travel to the festival and share their expertise with Parisian audiences.

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