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 in Europe of its kind.
The Conversation, as part of the festival launch, asked two experts in Indigenous storytelling – one from France and another from Australia – to ask questions of festival director Greta Moreton.
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 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 et al.). This was then followed by Warwick Thornton’s Samson and Delilah (Camera D’Or, 2009), Ivan Sen’s Toomelah (Un et al., 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 is through painting, song, dance, or cinema. The practice 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 have 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 FIFO 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. Would directors and actors attend their films in future editions?
Cinema La Clef is located in the 5th arrondissement of Paris. LPLT, CC 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.