Friday, May 31, 2013

Patterns of attachment to the land

Hetti Perkins' article, Patterns of attachment to the land (The Australian May 30, 2013)  is worth reading. It is an edited extract  from the publication accompanying My Country, I Still Call Australia Home: Contemporary Art from Black Australia at the Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane.
Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori's Dibirdibi Country (2008)
The sentient power of country and the spirits who reside within it is not to be underestimated. Still today, trespassing on another's country is a reckless and dangerous act. It is customary in many parts of Australia to be formally "introduced" to country by traditional custodians, which can take the form of an exchange of sweat or a baptismal dousing so the land will accept or sense one as a countryman or woman and not make the newcomer sick. Almost invariably, senior community members will walk ahead at a special site, calling to their ancestral spirits so they will recognise and not harm the visitors.

It is in this context that the "welcome to country" has evolved; and it is a culturally appropriate means of brokering a social engagement with another community by formally recognising their ties to their homelands in the contemporary world.

It is a matter of no small concern that there has been the inevitable invasion of anti-political correctness creeping into this profoundly symbolic gesture of respect, particularly in areas where the Western legal criteria used to determine native title rights dispossess the traditional custodians from any other form of public recognition. The criticism of federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott that the protocol is merely a "genuflection to political correctness" could be applied equally to singing the national anthem. How many Australians know all the words of the anthem, and how many really believe that we are a nation "young and free"? 
The welcome is an appropriate way of reiterating the message that Australia is home to the oldest continuous cultural tradition in the world, as a counterpoint to the endless parade of men on horses immortalised in bronze that line our city streets.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Remembering Pa on Anzac Day.

Here is our, Pa Tom,  mum's dad. He was a gunner in World War 1. Here he is, so young. I am remembering him this Anzac Day- and all he went through. His asthma was really bad when he came back from the Front. Some said it was the mustard gas. He died of an asthma attack early one morning in Invermay, Launceston Tasmania, in 1956. When we were little kids he used to whisper , "run up to the shops and buy a packet of fags for your poor old Pa, but don't tell Nan". He would press the coins into my hand, and off we would trot; how  strange I felt - on  this secret mission.

Our Pa

I never march on Anzac Day. I feel so strange about it all. I just can't relate to nationalism, patriotism or war. The only time I ever went to an Anzac Day March was when we women marched under a banner: "In memory of all women of all countries, raped in all wars."   I think it was around 1981. I filmed it on super 8 – the women's faces – such gravitas and dignity. They-we marched straight into the waiting police paddy wagons;  the organisors wouldn't give permission to the women to march under that banner. The great unspoken of war. 

Ps This photo is not the Sydney 1981 Anzac Day March....and I have no idea who the red circled person is!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

remembering mumirimina

Today someone called ("unknown") commented on a 2011 post I wrote: "save the mumirimina-kutalayna heritage" along the Jordan River, Tasmania. I find it very moving and would like to share it. We can also "remember them" and acknowledge that their descendants "walk where they once walked" and it is their country.

ya pulingina milaythina mana mapalitu
mumirimina laykara milaythina mulaka tara
raytji mulaka mumirimina
mumirimina mapali krakapaka laykara
krakapaka milaythina nika ta
waranta takara milaythina nara takara
waranta putiya nayri
nara laymi krakapaka waranta tu manta waranta tunapri nara.

Greetings to all of you here on our land
It was here that the Mumirimina people hunted kangaroo all over their lands
It was that the white men hunted the Mumirimina
Many Mumirimina died as they ran
Died here on their lands
We walk where they once walked
And their absence saddens us
But they will never be dead for us as long as we remember them.

This is the eulogy of the Risdon Cove Massacre of 1804 where Tasmanian Aborigines were killed in an encounter with British soldiers. Greg Lehman says, "Regardless of the debate over how many were killed, it certainly constitutes Tasmania’s first massacre. But was it simply a regrettable over-reaction to the accidental appearance of a hunting party? Or was it something much more tragic?" His (2006) article is entitled,  Two Thousand Generations of Place-making.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Putuparri Tom Lawford by Nicole Ma

Putuparri Tom Lawford by Nicole Ma

This film Putuparri  is in process and raising money via crowd source funding site  Pozible.
Support this film now; you can  make a donation and receive a DVD of the finished film.
 But hurry....52 hours only left on pozible!

"Ten years in the making, Putuparri is a compelling feature length documentary about an extraordinary 42 year old Wangakjunga man living in Fitzroy Crossing. Located in the remote Kimberley region of north western Australia, Putuparri Tom Lawford lives a two way life - traditional and contemporary".

Friday, March 8, 2013

Introducing "For Love or Money" at the IWD screening Avoca Cinema 7th March 2013

"Thank you it is a real pleasure to be here and introduce For Love or Money. 

I would like to show my respect and acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the Land, the Darkinjung, their Elders past and present on which this special Avoca Cinema IWD event is taking place.

Lyndall Ryan  asked if I could say a few words about the making of the film, its purpose as a feminist film and how it stands today... and I hope Lyndall will also say a few words to on how the film fares today!

So firstly I would like to acknowledge my collaborators – Megan McMurchy, Margot Nash, Margot Oliver and Lyndall (who was the historical consultant on the Penguin tie in book); and also Lyndall’s mother Edna Ryan – feminist activist and labour historian who is interviewed in the film, and whose analysis contributes much to the film’s economic analysis of women’s position.

Really, the purpose of the film was to create a visual, moving story about Australian women’s campaigns for wage justice and gender equality – campaigns for a just society, a civil society.

And we also wanted to make a film that interrogated and subverted the representation of women in Australian cinema; in the 70s there were few female film directors. The depiction of women tended to place women in passive, subservient roles. The daily experiences of ‘real women’ in the work place or at home were ignored.

Making the film
Ours was a spirited and long collaborative 7 year process- beginning with the 1978 Women and Labour Conference; the groundbreaking work of feminist historians was tumbling out in print form: books, articles – but there was no film that documented Australian women and work with any historical perspective or economic analysis, or that documented women’s radical activism to achieve, the vote, equal pay, property rights, legal abortion and child care.

We began our work in the archives - National Film and Sound Archive,  and Megan and I saw almost every Australian documentary and feature film produced - and we analysed every film from the perspective of how it represented women- selecting sequences to create the film. Meanwhile Margot Oliver joined us, and with a socialist feminist labour history perspective, starting recording interviews with women across Australia. The impulse was to seek out activist women – like Zelda D’Aprano, Edna Ryan; and many others, like the great Aboriginal activist Pearl Gibbs.

Margot Nash joined us as the film's editor and Elizabeth Drake came on board as composer.

We recorded over 35 interviews, printed off footage from our selected archival film and photographic collections, did extensive manuscript research and wrote many versions of the script! Through all this was raising the budget to make the film. See the end credits and you will get a sense of scale.

How is the film relevant to today?
Well, firstly let’s consider local IWD’s 2013 demands.
stop violence against women
end breastfeeding discrimination
affordable childcare
ratify the migrant workers' convention

And from one spectrum to the other:  In the board room: 5% of CEO’s are women – and in many Aboriginal communities the position of women is totally vulnerable due to both endemic historical racism – white privilege creating exclusionary work place practices; add to that the complexities of domestic violence, poverty – these are basic human rights issues needing urgent attention.

For Love or Money, provides a broad historical and economic analysis, still relevant today – especially our analysis of ‘the double day’ and women’s unpaid work in the home – which we name "the work of loving" in the film.

We analyse step by step – the way gender inequality is almost structured into the economic system: psychologically laid down in the family…where violence against women  is born…and we are witnessing this today on an horrific global scale.

I think the film is important, too, because it reminds us that advances we make as women can be fragile. Currently we have a female PM and some terrific women cabinet members.

But a change of government will unfold a different map. Quite a worrying map, in fact- if it happens!

In my view For Love or Money could have a new chapter:  Chapter 5 – to bring it up to the present; I see it as an online collaborative documentary that is open for all women to contribute to – for all of us to tell stories that are relevant today – and to be able to network with each other around our concerns. I see our For Love or Money  facebook page as a stepping stone to this kind of  interactive website; we can all make it relevant to now!"

 For Love or Money is available online (pay per view) at Beamafilm and DVD's can be purchased via Ronin Films. Ronin also has a few copies of the For Love or Money Penguin  tie-in book for sale- but hurry!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Manu Tutura by Barry Barclay

I am only beginning to get to know something of Barry Barclay's significant contribution to documentary film in New Zealand and his notion of 'Fourth Cinema', described by Stuart Murray in his book: Images of Dignity: Barry Barclay and Fourth Cinema as:
"An umbrella term referring to the multiple forms of Indigenous cinemas that operate at local, national and international levels, Fourth Cinema is primarily guided by the desire to provide the conditions for the expression of Indigenous voices and ways of seeing... Barclay's mode of practice insists upon the importance of linking cultural production to the community from which it emerges.

I am currently reading Barclay's book Mana Tuturu: Maori Treasures and Intellectual Property Rights (Auckland University Press, 2005). Part One, 'Before the Beginning' takes an extraordinary perspective –  Barclay imagines 'what if' Lieutenant James Cook and his Endeavour crew arrived with a film camera and started 'shooting' documentary footage on the west side of the Turanga River that October day in 1769 on Rongowhakata lands. Barclay's way of thinking about The British Crown's assumption that all land belonged to the Crown (for its taking), turns the whole story of colonial possession around and makes us think deeply about the way any of us might use 'camera' - in any situation. It accords with my view that the the kind of deep philosophical thinking by Indigenous filmmakers around 'filming people' has something very profound to teach all of us.

The ethnography of compassion

Recently I went to Vietnam to  the inaugural International Anthropological Film Festival in Ho Chi Minh City. Realtime (Issue 13, 2013) has just published my review of that Festival: The Ethnography of Compassion

The drawing is from We Want (U) to Know (2011) by Ella Pugliese (Italy) and Nou Va (Cambodia). This participatory documentary was created with survivors of the Khmer Rouge period. The intended audience is Cambodian, and the film has been used over the last couple of years by NGO's and outreach programs to teach villagers about the Khmer Rouge regime and about the country's ongoing Khmer Rouge tribunal. 

Produced around the time of the Tribunal, amidst the painful process of remembering, the film reveals its own methods of storytelling and re-enactment, along with the potency of the children filming their elders. These participatory methods become part of a restorative justice process. The film develops as a work of mourning—a catalyst to transformative emotional change. Drawing, painting and working through trauma with re-enactments were part of the filmmakers process with the villagers.

The energy of cultural exchange and shared consciousness is a significant quality that visual ethnography offers the documentary tradition. It is also a mode of filmmaking with a strong foundation in Vietnam and in its tertiary education. Vietnamese visual ethnographers are making films from perspectives within their own culture, not as observers representing ‘the other’ —perhaps as a consequence of having achieved liberation from French and American colonisation. Also, it is not surprising that many of the films are working through complex issues around tradition and modernity given the largely agrarian population and its multi-ethnicity—with over 50 distinct groups, each with its own language and cultural heritage. I appreciated many of the films and the engaged discussions that took place around them. 

Filmmaker Tu Thi Thu Hang participated in many of the discussions and she often shared deeply about Vietnamese history and events that had affected her family in the immediate post war period. Tu Thi Thu Hang  structures her recent film, The Old Man Who Sells Bananas (2012), so that the audience starts out with ‘her’ mis-perception of the Old Man. 

We see him as a victim too—he seems poor, elderly and abandoned. Skillfully filming with him over one and a half years Hang draws us closer into this man’s life, step by step—from lone individual to family man, to respected wise elder of the village with his Confucian ethics and responsibilities. In discussion the filmmaker describes her process: “Now I have a completely different way of looking at him.” (And so do we). “He is the ‘last man’ who lived in a previous epoch. In his 84 years he has lived through the French and American occupation, and liberation. He has passed through the main eras of Vietnamese history. He has applied traditional wisdom to develop what is an ethical way to live.” 

Michael Renov, documentary film scholar, refers to the '5th tendency' of documentary as 'the ethical', in "What’s at stake for the documentary enterprise? 
I think that the ethical in itself. . . has a sort of functioning dimension, and it is also glued to this notion of a common desire or impulse: an ethical impulse, that one can see as an underlying and consistent theme that cross the history of documentary. How do I. . . what is my relationship with this other? What do I mean to that person, what does that person mean to me, what’s at stake in representing others?
So I think Renov's finely tuned insight that 'the ethical' is fundamental to documentary is so relevant - not only to today- but to the whole history of documentary. The 'ethical'  is the frame by which we both make and study documentary.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

My Survival as an Aboriginal

Dear Martha

How great to see Essie Coffey's  film  My Survival as an Aboriginal  (1978) last night on NITV (and all the other great films screening on NITV on Survival Day yesterday! 

And good on you Martha (Ansara...and others) for making this film with Essie back then! Thirty- five years ago! I think I appreciate the film much more now, in 2013,  than when I first saw it in 1978.  I love the pace of the film and Essie's narration. I love the fridge sequence. I always did! And I love the sequence where Essie introduces all her family to us....and the way you film them as they come out the front door of the house and each person says hello. Essie's love of country and family is strong- as is her sadness....
The ongoing issues of colonialism and dispossession raised by Coffey continue to affect Indigenous peoples today. 'My Survival as an Aboriginal', though a call to justice, is also tempered with beauty, and the audience is allowed to glimpse the private world of Essie Coffey and the people of Brewarrina. Coffey is very strong in her fight for justice, and equally committed to ensuring that the next generation are taught cultural knowledge as a means of ensuring an identity invested in the ongoing relationship to land Romaine Moreton, Curator's Notes, Australian Screen

So I am encouraging any reader of this blog to watch this film. It is as relevant to day as when it was made. Purchase a DVD of My Survival at Ballad Films and visit Australian Screen, which, along with Moreton's curator's notes on My Survival  also has a good essay called :  A Short History of Indigenous Filmmaking.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

my recent thinking on documentary @conferences; film reviews

 Visible Evidence Conference,  ANU (December 2012) –  my presentation: Documentary, the database and the global archive of the internet: implications for teaching documentary film history.

This paper is exploratory – a map to something I am working on in more depth. The converging digital and online media era provokes questions on how to approach the study and teaching of documentary history. How do we contextualize such rapidly evolving media–within or alongside the field of documentary?  Perhaps the case for a digitally based – experimental practice of documentary making, writing and critical thinking – exemplified by Chris Marker, indicates a way through this era; so acknowledging Marker’s passing: ‘Cat – wherever you are – peace be with you'.

My paper at the Film and History ConferenceThe politics and poetics of subversion: documentary film-making and the decolonization of Tasmanian historyIn this paper I discuss several films (and images) that have been produced amidst the turbulent site of Tasmania’s past and present: The Last Tasmanian (1978) Blackman’s Houses (1993), First Australians, Portrait of a Distant Land, and my own documentary Island Home Country – all produced in 2008. These films work intertextually and with social and political consequences. I look at the textual strategies the filmmakers and artists have used – their politics and poetics, and my own – to explore how filmmaking and art practice can make potent contributions to processes of decolonization.

Here is my review of the recent book on Hungarian filmmaker Peter Forgacs; its in the latest issue of 'Screening the Past': Cinema’s Alchemist: The Films of Péter ForgácsIn this rich and detailed book various contributors call him by different names: artist-archivist, scribe, witness, poet, cinema alchemist. His body of work is so extensive, innovating across a diversity of mediums and forms, that the term filmmaker only partly suits him. Given the unstable and rapidly changing landscape of digital-documentary filmmaking, this latest Visible Evidence Series (#25) on Forgács and his work is very timely.

Another recent review  I have done is this book Australian Documentary: History, Practices and Genres by Trish FitzSimons, Pat Laughren and Dugald Williamson Cambridge UP, 2011). It's in Metro Magazine, Issue 173,  2012  (PDF at this link).

Australian Documentary is an insightful and generous book. It offers back to the community of practitioners and broader audiences a text rich with scholarship, reflecting on ‘more than a century of practice’.  Readers can engage with an Australian documentary tradition in local, national and international contexts. We can connect with the lineage of films and the negotiated labour of producing them, and gain a strong sense of the capacity of documentary to be transformed and renewed. There is much pleasure in sensing this regenerative process.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

International Anthropological Film Festival in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

I am back from the International Anthropological Film Festival in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – organised by VICAS: Vietnam Institute of Culture and Arts Studies). Screening in four venues across Ho Chi Minh City (two universities) this was an amazing event! 

Ho Chi Minh City University of Culture

It was a really great cross-cultural experience and I learnt so much about Vietnam (and visual ethnography).  It would be great to see some of the films in this program in Australia. Here is the Festival's trailer which gives something of a feel for the festival films (although censorship in Vietnam is a real issue –  some local and international films were banned and/or cut–sometimes at the very last moment- so the program shifted here and there).

The discussions (formal and informal) were so thorough. Some-times 2 hours on one film! Incredible detail - so that more social, political, philosophical and historical issues were discussed, than film-making practice. You know, I liked this Festival so much more than the 'standard' film festival where the market place dominates - or when there are so many films (back to back) that there is no time for in-depth discussion - or discussion feel hurried.  Here at the Anthrop Film Festival the discussions were an intrinsic part of the screening – and were in depth, insightful and penetrating. At Ho Chi Minh City's University of Culture I was taken by the intense engagement of the students with the ideas presented in each film. This was no ordinary film festival, but something unique. I asked a colleague if he thought this quality was the "anthropological"  nature of the event or some quality in Vietnamese culture and-or their education system? We reckoned it was probably both!

Ho Chi Minh City University of Culture

Actually, I have never really located myself within this field of visual ethnography - perhaps because anthropological films in Australia have mostly been made from within the vexed site of colonising. I have preferred to make films  as a 'documentary maker'. Also my own film-making began as part of a political process - making feminist films for social change. But this Festival has stimulated me to review various positions I have held over the years.  All orthodoxies need to be challenged! And anthropology, too is going through its own transformations - and a genuine 'participatory',  ethical and de-colonising film-making is very much part of current practice: "The remarkable novelty comes when a Maori becomes an anthropologist and she practices anthropology as a Maori rather than studying the Maori as an anthropologist". Walter Mingolo, ('Decolonizing Western Epistemology, Building Decolonial Epistemologies') . Mingolo's essay refers to Maori scholar Linda Tuhiwai Smith and her great book: "Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples" (1998) whch has just been released in its 2nd edition (2012). The book "has been substantially revised, with new case-studies and examples and important additions on new indigenous literature, the role of research in indigenous struggles for social justice, which brings this essential volume urgently up-to-date". 
I will be writing an article about the AnthroFestival for Realtime (Feb 2013). 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Agnes Varda Tribute

Agnès Varda is a Paris-based photographer and film director and a key figure in modern film history. She is much revered across the globe for her deconstruction of the documentary form and her boundary-pushing work. In a career spanning 57 years, Agnès Varda, is one of the most original and renowned of the French ‘New Wave’ directors; in fact she is the only female director associated with it – her early films anticipating the work of Godard and Truffaut.

Beaches of Agnes 2008
Antenna Documentary Festival, in collaboration with the Alliance Francaise, the French Embassy and the Art Gallery of New South Wales, presented a tribute to this legendary French filmmaker on October 13th.  The films screened in 35mm (what a treat!). A special  thanks to AGNSW Curator and projectionist Robert Herbert ; and thanks to Antenna for inviting me to introduce the films: Beaches of Agnes
Here's an extract from my intro:  In The Beaches of Agnes we are in the mind of an Elder who is ‘essaying’: she weighs up her own life, pays tribute to her lovers, friends, family and colleagues. She time travels back into her own films – and into Demy’s films. It is a tribute to cinema – to the nouvelle vaugue, to documentary, to fiction, to imagination, to creativity. There is a great freedom in this film – everything is possible – as in a Melies film. It is magic, the stuff of dreams.
and an extract from my introduction to The Gleaners and I:

Varda plays with representation – from Millet’s painting – which serves as visual metaphor and foundation text – and she transforms it into her own film text of gleaning. She pushes beyond the surfaces of Millet’s three gleaners and his framing – to blow open the edge of frame and ‘essay’ into her film’s themes; and she gives us herself and her gleaners in fleshy reality.

The people actually filmed in The Gleaners – and the way she films with them – is worth thinking about.  How does Varda achieve such a special quality in her interviews? – a feeling of compassion and intimacy – a sense of shared humanity. Varda says this: 

“The people I have filmed tell us a great deal about our society and ourselves.  I myself learned a lot as I was making this film.  It confirmed my idea that documentaries are a discipline that teach modesty”. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Indonesia and Australian Cinema

I watched Indonesian President Susilo Bambang  Yudhoyono’s speech (on APAC: Tuesday 3rd July 2012) at the Australia-Indonesia Business Council Luncheon, Darwin, and was struck by his Australian film references. I reckon it's a real challenge to introduce the diversity of Australian cinema and documentary to Indonesian audiences (as well as more current works) - judging by his titles:
“Many Indonesians are fans of the movie “Australia” starred by Hugh Jackman & Nicole Kidman and “Crocodile Dundee” starred by Paul Hogan. Both movies showed the beauty of nature and fauna of Australia. They also showed the spirit of the folks of Northern Territory: the fighting spirit, freedom, and optimism. These are the spirits that we need to advance in the Australia-Indonesia cooperation". 
I am thinking of more recent films that Indonesian audiences might appreciate, like Rachel Perkins's  (Blackfella Films) recent drama Mabo - on the historic Mabo decision and life story of Eddie and Bonita Mabo. 

Or Bilbao (2009) by Robert Connolly on East Timor. 
It seems there's a way to go to see such titles amongst Bambang Yudhoyono’s favourites. And what about the documentary list?!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Journey To The End Of Coal

Honkytonk Films – Online screening: Journey To The End Of Coal

Journey To The End Of Coal a new web documentary tells the story of the sacrifice millions of Chinese coal miners are making everyday, risking their lives, yet also causing ecological havoc in order to develop China's economic growth (online now!). It was made out of 300 photographs, 3 hours of video and 10 hours of sound materials gathered in China by Samuel Bollendorff and Abel Ségrétin in the winter of 2006. Using Flash, they have produced  an immersive environment while letting the audience access a large selection of this audio-visual materials at their own pace.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Walking by David Perry

A wet morning in Sydney! And by accident this morning I came across filmmaker David Perry's grainy, silent super 8 footage 'Walking'. Filmed in 1955, Perry's camera tracks a young man walking Sydney's rainy streets, through Ultimo, across Pyrmont Bridge; it's a fragment of a city film, and it's like an original moment with Arthur Stace 'Mr. Eternity'. It's now part of an installation at Damien Minton Gallery featured in the group exhibition 'Five Bells - A Visual Ode to Sydney' (1-18 February, 2012) .

Friday, December 30, 2011

New documentary in development, “ricky on leacock”

I just backed the film with a $15 pledge and will receive a digital download of the film RICKY on LEACOCK when available! This documentary project expires on Kickstarter in 46 hours - so fingers crossed it raises this last $4000 today and tonight! Your pledge contributes to  a great new portrait on Leacock and a film that expands the history of the evolution of documentary

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

'One of the tropes of reality TV shows is the promise and tracking of transformation'

In a recent review I wrote about the SBS documentary reality TVseries Go back to where you came from (in on-line magazine The Conversation), I explore whether the 'transformation' of attitudes amongst the six 'characters' is more than an 'unhappy performative'.

Individuals might genuinely change their minds as a result of what they’ve experienced, but do the state’s refugee policies change? Sara Ahmed discusses similar questions about  racism/anti-racism in her essay, Declarations of Whiteness: The Non-Performativity of Anti-Racism
There's an interesting response to the series by Klaus Neumann in  Inside Story, 
 30th June 2011.  
Neumann discusses whether 'compassion' can be ‘a motivator for action'. He examines the series in the context of its reception: 'the debate rages on blogs and in the twittersphere rather than on the opinion pages of newspapers'…suggesting that 'the creators of the program have been right in not trying to use the show to campaign for a change of policy, but instead focusing on the paucity of the debate'. Neumann also explores how the emotions aroused by the series, and viewers' 'identification with the six participants, has played a crucial role' in the impact of the series. I agree to some extent,  yet the Gillard Government's (almost) confirmed 'Malaysian Solution' suggests its questionable refugee policies continue apace, despite any intense transformations of heart by onscreen characters in a tightly constructed reality TV series. Developing compassionate government immigration policies remains a major concern. 


Saturday, April 30, 2011

anger is turning to sadness, but future action is not ruled out

Jim Everett at the kutalayna site, April 2011

Jim's face says it all -  as the Tasmanian Government arrests protestors and proceeds to build the Brighton by-pass over  mumirimina-kutalayna  heritage along the Jordon River;  kutalayna is a significant link to the Tasmanian Aboriginal community’s history of over 40,000 years (see The Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre's (TAC) Draft Report on the Mumirimina People of the Lower Jordan Valley).

"What kind of things I can share with non Aboriginal people so that they can start  to understand that there is a different way of seeing this world... and their identity cannot be Australian with this country until such time as they get here – they will always be bringing the Northern hemisphere down here and constructing a landscape instead of living in country; landscape is just another  image of the colonial construct... whereas connecting to country goes outside of the colonial construct."  Jim Everett.

"There’s No Such Thing As Post-Colonialism". Jim Everett

This month I was pleased to read Will Owen's blog: Aboriginal Art & Culture: an American eye and his thoughtful response to my documentary Island Home Country
Although Island Home Country may have begun as a film about her childhood, Thornley quickly became swept us in the larger questions of history, and then just as quickly in the questions of cultural protocols.  She visits with Jim Everett, with Aunty Phyllis Pitchford, with Tasmanian artists Julie Gough and PennyX Saxon.  Gough in particular raises the issues of image making and image use; Everett and Pitchford urge her to tell her own story and not try to tell the Indigenous stories (although they do contribute their own in snippets throughout the film).  Thus the weave become tangled as Thornley struggles to explore, to learn, and to tell what she learns: to tell a story that is both hers and not hers... She knows as she does so that she is laying a landscape atop country, and knows there is no other way to do it.  It is Jim Everett who speaks the phrase I’ve chosen as the title for this essay: “There’s no such thing as post-colonialism.”  Unless and until the white man leaves and leaves the country to its original inhabitants, whatever remains is still colonial.  There is no escape from history....

Friday, April 15, 2011

save the mumirimina-kutalayna heritage along the Jordon River, Tasmania

Yesterday 15 April 2011 - 25 police arrested 8 camp membersa further 12 people have since been arrested for trepass with no signs of when the conflict will stop. The day before this Jim Everett, respected Tasmanian Aboriginal activist writer, filmmaker, sent an email letter across Australia (and internationally) asking for support to protect this significant Tasmanian Aboriginal site. I post his letter in full and ask all readers to re-post it across their networks. Also visit The Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre's website to learn more about the campaign and give your support.

"Friday 15th April looks like being a very important day in our history and our struggle for respect of who we are, and respect for our culture and heritage. The Tasmanian Government is about to destroy the mumirimina-kutalayna heritage along the Jordon River. Kutalayna holds the Tasmanian Aboriginal community’s history of over 40,000 years. Today, Friday 15th April, our community and our supporters will be at kutalayna to defend our heritage left by our Old People. Constructing a bridge over kutalayna exposes the current Tasmanian Government’s disrespect for our heritage, and our community. Premier Lara Giddings knows that the bridge will destroy the cultural and historical integrity of kutalayna: she dismisses Tasmanian Aboriginal community knowledge about kutalayna boundaries to save 20 seconds of driving time for traffic entering and leaving Hobart. Premier Giddings has a reasonable option to re-route the bypass over the existing bridge to the north, and along and around kutalayna.

Over 40,000 years of Tasmanian Aboriginal heritage, a unique record of human experiences covering at least 2 Ice-ages, is about to be seriously interfered with. Yet we continue Our Struggle for respect and rights inherent in who we are. This has serious consequences for our community. We believe that the police will arrive today to order supporters away from the kutalayna camp, or arrest the people who refuse to leave: supporters and ‘activists’ standing strong as one body to defend kutalayna. Our action will be a passive and send a clear message to the Government that our heritage is not a bargaining tool. Promises of replacing the out-dated Aboriginal Relics Act 1975 with stronger protection laws of our heritage can’t seriously be considered a bargain for agreeing to the destruction of our heritage. Kutalayna, is our oldest ‘library’ book, it holds the stories of our Old People going back over 40,000 years. Our community has suffered many years of destruction to our heritage since Invasion Day: we must make a stand now, leaving it to our grand-children, and theirs’, must not be allowed to happen.

The issue in focus at kutalayna brings a strong opportunity for developing better relationships between the Tasmanian Aboriginal community and white-Tasmania. To make this happen, a genuine demonstration of meaningful progress in respecting our culture and heritage must be shown by the Tasmanian Government.

I know that we all have hoped that after all of the many years we have struggled to be acknowledged as the contemporary Tasmanian Aboriginal Community; with our objective to be genuinely respected for who we are, and with respect of our rights as Aboriginal people: and, after significant agreements have been achieved with previous Tasmanian Governments: our hope has been that we would not again be forced to to protect our heritage from destruction by a Tasmanian Government. The progress we have achieved in relationships between white-Tasmania and our community, encouraged by previous Tasmanian Governments, is being trashed by Premier Giddings’ Government. Whatever active part you play now, urgently, to increase pressure on the Government to stop the threats to kutalayna, may open some positive outcome for our community.

To be short, we are demanding respect by all of Tasmania, represented by the Tasmanian Government, of our rights concerning the protection of our heritage. I ask you to encourage others to come to the kutalayna camp and show support in saving our heritage from this pending threat."

Saturday, January 8, 2011

"I began to experience a strange tension with my technology".

Walking with Kabir by Shabnam Virmani: " As I ventured into the life of Kabir in the community, I began to experience a strange tension with my technology. The presence of my camera seemed to separate me from the action and relegate me to being a passive observer...Being part of the making process seemed more vital and important than consuming what is made, in my case, ‘recording’ it. It seemed imperative to be fully enveloped in the live pulsating music, to allow it to infiltrate your very pores and have the poetry literally enter your body by singing it...Our middle class lives deliver to us mediated experiences that come to us through books, TV, radio, music CDs and the internet — technology that can certainly deliver powerful experiences, but that can also circumscribe our lives, cut it off from immersion in a vital life force that exists in nature, in the tactile experience of sound, music and earth. We get alienated, we become watchers of spectacles, far-removed, we become phlegmatic, we don’t participate... What I realized in that moment was that in some sense, these were not my films at all. They were not something I made or earned or chose. They were experiences I received as gifts, from a space that lay beyond the claims of my small self. All I had to do now was to pass them on and gift them to others:

Meraa mujh mein kuchch naheen
Jo kuchch hai so teraa
Teraa tujh ko saunp dun
Kyaa laage hai meraa?
There is nothing in me that’s mine
All that is — is yours
I offer to you what’s already yours
What can I say is mine?"

Article by Shabnam Virmani January 2010 Seminar magazine based on a talk she gave in October 2010. View Shabnam's talk and singing here:

Shabnam Virmani is a filmmaker and artist in residence at the Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology in Bangalore, India. 7 years ago she started travelling with folk singers in Malwa, Rajasthan and Pakistan in a quest for the spiritual and socio-political resonances of the 15th century mystic poet Kabir in our contemporary worlds. Her documentary Koi Sunta Hai: Journeys with Kumar & Kabir can be watched online at Culture Unplugged

I recommend her work to you. It is profound.

Friday, December 31, 2010

‘the shock of the feminist’

The omission of women from the cultural record meant the search for a women’s tradition

I came across this article a few months back: "Wonders Taken for Signs: The Cultural Activism of the Australian Women’s Movement as Avant-Garde Reformation" by Margaret Henderson ( Lilith 17: 2008). It's a very thoughtful discussion of feminism and cultural production and what we can learn from that intense period of the "1970s and 1980s, in Australia and throughout the West, (when) relations of cultural production, reception, and texts (and films) all worked together to create the ‘shock of the feminist’". In her essay Henderson also discusses the "collective, as (the) defining structure of the women’s movement, signifier par excellence of its cultural politics"; here she also refers to various women's collectives including the Sydney Women's Film Group - which I became a member of in 1969:
Collectivism, as a strategy to demystify artistic production, to challenge the bourgeois artist figure and ideology of individualism, and to overcome women’s isolation, is the creative ethos powering feminist culture, whether in textual production or distribution. In the case of film, the auteur theory was rejected in favour of a non-hierarchical collective structure of film making, ‘one in which all the creative and technical roles were shared among the group’.

There's a longer essay to be written which explores the rise and fall (and rise) of 'the collective' in women's film-making; food for thought as a group of younger feminists contacted the For Love or Money (A history of women and work in Australia, feature documentary and Penguin Book 1983) team recently as they produce a short film on the history of International Women's Day. Younger women are discovering that the 'post-feminist' era is not necessarily a place of liberation! We did, after all call our movement Women's Liberation! Another group of young feminists saw For Love or Money at an IWD screening at their uni last year: "Last night, I watched the feminist documentary ‘For Love or Money’ at my university...As I sat there, waiting for the sense of relief and liberation to wash over me, I suddenly realized that every injustice suffered by our foremothers still exists today – it’s just dressed differently." ( Zoya Patel, 'Get Outraged!' in lip magazine, March 2010).

It's worth thinking and acting on this too: that our early film works of the 1970s and 1980s were all produced prior to Web 2.0. We have much to do to give these historically significant films presence in the 21st century.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Oprah’s generosity is a smoke screen

Oprah’s generosity is a smoke screen. Given her audiences are predominately women I am concerned by my gender’s complicity in this government PR campaign. Worth examining is Oprah’s gift of 6000 Kimberley Coast pearl necklaces to Australian audiences. Several family-work visits to the Kimberley this year have revealed to me the huge social and environmental issues facing people here. Most stark are housing, health and educational issues for Aboriginal people. Many struggling ‘settler’ Australians also face a housing crisis and rapidly rising rents. As well, myriad issues around energy company Woodside’s gas project, north of Broome, needs an informed local and national polity to cut through the ‘environmental’ versus ‘development’ split.

Sadly Oprah’s circus, in tandem with a misguided Federal government, is ‘pulling the wool’ over the eyes of the woman in the street. Australian women, try not to be bought off by these ‘pearls’! Investigate the gas hub debate; research the history of the pearling industry in Broome; examine Indigenous infant mortality across northern Australia. Perhaps then you may consider donating your pearls to Aboriginal medical centres and schools in the Kimberley where your gift will be more than decorative.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

documentary modes

It is documentary film theorist Bill Nichols who writes about the chief characteristics and deficiencies of each documentary mode (Introduction to Documentary (2001:139). It was interesting, then, this morning to read Cynthia Lucia's interview with the filmmaker of Dogora, Patrice Leconte in Cineaste: "Personal Politics and Vision in Dogora: An Interview with Patrice Leconte". Now, Leconte is not really a documentary filmmaker, nor has he read any documentary film studies (most documentary filmmakers haven't). In the interview I can sense how he is struggling over the shortcomings of the mode(s) he chose for this film:

Lucia writes: Yet, as is true of certain moments in Wiseman’s work, at points in Dogora the absence of information not only impedes viewer comprehension, but it also potentially inhibits active or, at best, activist viewer response. The footage centered on the Steung Mean Chey garbage dump—the largest open landfill in Asia, located a half hour outside Phnom Penh City—is a case in point. We see impoverished adults and children collecting waste (and sometimes consuming something edible they may find) through day and night. We also see images of children studying and sleeping in a schoolroom. It’s difficult to make sense of these images—what they mean or how they are connected. In the French DVD release of the film, Leconte, on the commentary track, explains that the school is run by PSE (Pour un Sourire d’Enfant [For a Child’s Smile]), a French organization devoted to helping the children, many of whom are orphans, obtain an education and the basic necessities of life. At the time of filming, Christian des Pallieres oversaw the school and the charitable work involving landfill residents. While the images evoke a powerful emotional response, one wonders if a bit more information might elicit something more substantial—whether through further research, donations, or other support of landfill workers. At the same time, of course, that could easily tip the film’s balance away from the lyrical to a more didactic, public-service mode—and that, too, would present a problem.. Lucia writes of a 'fissure—between the personal, lyrical project of the film and those disquieting images that seem to press for something more'.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Martha of the North

Tracy, I haven't seen Martha’s film yet, only the trailer. I have ordered the film for UTS library. But have a look at this clip here: Mary May Simon, a dynamic activist for her people, former Canadian diplomat, Fellow of the Arctic Institute of North America, introduces Martha Flaherty's film Martha of the North at its launch in this year in Ottawa. In this intro I think she acknowledges that Martha’s father Josephie Flaherty, (Flaherty’s Inuit son), is in the audience. I am not sure: watch this clip! Also today I learned of a 1990 documentary, Nanook Revisted which revisits the site of Flaherty’s filming. Here too is a wiki on Nanook Revisted that furthers discussions around these complex issues in documentary