Wednesday, February 28, 2007

protocols process

Woggan-mugule Dawn Ceremony, Doonooch Dancers and Garrabarra Dance Company 2005

What are Indigenous protocols? How do non Indigenous artists, filmmakers and wrtiters work with them? How am I working with them in this film? I am discovering that with each image, each frame - there is a story behind the image: a story of relationship, of encounter; there are perhaps letters, emails, phone calls, face to face contact; each moment, each frame varies. Yet there is 'bedrock' at the basis of it all - and that is this question: how do we come into country the proper way?

Frances Peters Little, discusses some of the issues in: The Impossibility Of Pleasing Everybody: A Legitimate Role For White Filmmakers Making Black Films first published in Art Monthly May 2002.
"With the advent of stringent policy and ethical guidelines written to protect Aboriginal communities from potentially harmful effects of wide public exposure, communities have become diligent about taking back as much as they have given outsiders who wish to appropriate Aboriginal intellectual and cultural knowledge and property. Film crews, black or white, are required to adhere to the principle that one must benefit the community as a form of exchange. This becomes problematic is when black or white film crews are left deciding who is the community and how should they be benefiting them. Defining what benefits a community is not straightforward, and the guidelines provide little help on this issue. Generally the notion of giving back to a community assumes that film crews ask the community to suggest how their film can provide a practical outcome for that community. Independent filmmakers offer anything from shares in their production to having their films used as evidence in native title claims. It is not unusual for filmmakers to contribute to community organisations or individuals in the form of cash payment."

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

'My Freud' in Psychoanalysis Downunder, May 2006

Genevieve Cseh, digital art work 2003
What is the "historical dimension of being together in pain" here in Australia? I am thinking about this in terms of the long term affect/effect of British colonisation here. This paper by psychoanalyst Shahid Najeeb stirs thoughts and feelings about this pain. I am trying to explore it in this film ISLAND HOME COUNTRY. The affect - in the body of the film - of this pain we share, both colonised and colonisers. " We come to understand deeply, in a way that cannot be dismissed, that all human beings are made of the same substance, sharing the same desires, hopes and ambitions and suffering the same pangs of longing, anxiety, terror and despair". "My Freud" by Shahid Najeeb

Monday, February 26, 2007

deep water spirit waiting: meenamatta water country discussion: Jonathan Kimberley & pura-lia meenamatta (Jim Everett) Bett Gallery, Hobart

I have just been back to Tasmania to film with Jim Everett and Aunty Phyllis Pitchford; also to visit family, discuss the film and see how they feel about it. Only two days ago I was swimming in the ocean at Bruny Island...the water, the light and the air so clear! Today I am back at UTS and have just dubbed masters of the filming; so many images and feelings as I journey between family and community, Aboriginal Tasmanians and newcomer Australians, city and bush and present day realities juxtaposed against 210 years of colonisation and a 40,000 year old culture - living. Jim Everett brings the conversation to water - often and the writing painting discussion he and Jonathan Kimberley held at the Bett Gallery in Hobart in 2006.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Ashis Nandy: MANAS website UCLA

"Ashis Nandy is a political psychologist and sociologist of science who works at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in New Delhi, India. He has worked on cultures of knowledge, visions, and dialogue of civilizations.
Phillip Darby introduces him thus for Overland Magazine: "You might well ask who is Ashis Nandy? And why should his thinking matter to Australians? What relevance has this Indian pundit to our concerns? For those not familiar with the man or his work, he is an original and vigorously independent thinker, with a taste for the unorthodox. He is best known for his writing on colonialism but in recent years he has come to be acknowledged as one of the founding figures of postcolonial studies. He is also India’s foremost public intellectual."
Ashis Nandy: MANAS website UCLA
Ashis Nandy Wikipedia

The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of Self Under Colonialism. Delhi: Oxford UP, 1983. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1988.
"The discussion here is of the psychological problems posed at a personal level by colonialism, for both colonizer and colonized. . . . The bulk of this book concerns British colonialism in India. . . . Nandy argues that gender issues became intertwined with those of race, class, and religion under colonialism, and that the Gandhian movement can be understood in part as an attempt to transcend a strong tendency of educated Indians to articulate political striving for independence in European terms." Ashis Nandy biography essays links

Professor Nandy was a guest at UTS Key University Research Centre in Communication and Culture, Trans/forming Cultures in 2006 Some of us post graduate students presented our projects to him for discussion. I presented on this film project and the complex issues around Tasmania and colonial violence. I remember him responding with a discussion on 'the eerie silence' around the violence of partition in India in 1947.
mp3 of lecture: The Return of the Sacred, the Language of Religion and the Fear of Democracy in a Post-Secular World

Friday, February 16, 2007

A soldier of the Australian Light Horse Brigade gathers anemones

Palestine, 1918, Frank Hurley, official Australian war photographer. Wikimedia®
This photo makes me think of my Pa, Tom Butcher, who was a Gunner in World War 1. 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. I asked my Auntie about it the other morning: what did she remember? "I heard Mum screaming," she said. The radio was on... the news... 1956... the Hungarian uprising. He had fallen out of bed in the night. He was on the floor."

I am struck by the sharpness of her memory: the way the news broadcast stayed in her mind and located his death in historical time, in public history - and strangely in another violent armed struggle of European history...down here in Tassie, so close to the south pole, so far away from 'the centre'.

As I prepare for return to Tasmania for the next phase of the film: Aboriginal protocols, filming with elders from the community, my own family permissions...dialogue exchange - I think about historian Henry Reynolds and Ken Inglis's work who do we mourn in Australian history
in the public ceremonies? Reynolds asks why we don’t honour Aboriginal deaths in the frontier wars of the 19th and 20th centuries; Henry Reynolds: "If we make the centrepiece of our celebration, our invasion of Turkey, a country we knew nothing about and had no direct experience with, I can’t see why we can’t come to terms with our invasion of Australia...Now, if remembering deaths is important, then we have to do something to show we take their deaths as seriously as we take our own."

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Keeping Culture: Aboriginal Tasmania

This new book Keeping Culture (a collaboration between Aboriginal Tasmanian artists and the National Museum of Australia edited by Amanda Jane Reynolds) has had a big impact on my thinking about the film - especially Jim Everett's essay: This is Manalargenna Country: Clan Country of a First Nation and his exploration of the mind/body/spirit that moves moving beyond the colonial construct: "We walked the country, talked about it and brought together the threads of our being with it all: the place, history and people...the experience of what I call All, of being related to everything there, with responsibilities and acceptance of our role as humans living beyond the colonial construct."
Jim's activism spans decades. This 21st century phase is especially relevant as he articulates Aboriginal philosophy: it's as if he is providing a map, a synthesis of years political action with a profound caring of country. Four Corners Interview ABC 2002.

I am re-reading Ashis Nandy's Exiled at Home: these 1970-72 essays where Nandy examines "Indian political consciousness and- I cannot avoid the expression- unconsciousness. Being directly concerned with the relationship between the private and the public in politics."
Nandy and Everett - post colonial thinkers - come together in my mind as this film evolves its shape, content and form - the technical realities of the filmmaking process - reverberate, stretch to encompass these ideas and bring them forth in images, text and music.

Seven Hours to Burn

Written, directed and edited by Shanti Thakur 1999, experimental documentary,9 minutes, color/b&w.
"Impressionistic cinematography is juxtaposed with searing archival images while spare narration combines with a nuanced sound design. The viewer is swept into the mood of the piece and must consider the long-lasting effects-both internal and external-of conflict and change." Kristine Samuelson, Stanford University
This 9 minute film Seven Hours to Burn is sublime..what Thakur achieves in 9 minutes is extraordinary!

Howard urged to stop museum testing Indigenous remains

I woke up to the repatriation debate on ABC AM yesterday."Last year in a landmark decision, Britain's Natural History Museum agreed to return the remains of 17 Indigenous Tasmanians. But before sending the remains back to Australia, the Museum wanted to collect scientific data. That sparked an angry outcry from the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, and it's now fighting the Museum in the High Court in London". (ABC AM web site)
I am always struck by the great resilence and fighting spirit of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre and the way they keep chipping away at the ongoing legacies of colonial rule. They are warriors and I admire them!

The rough cut of the film has a sequence on repatriation...originally I had used a photograph of a shelf of skulls (from the British Museum); you would think I would know how inappropriate that of the Tasmanian readers of a much earlier edit was offended and warned against using it. I had no problem taking it out; what interests me is how could I have edited it in? I we replaced the image with was a breakthrough to working with images of fire and water.

An insightful essay on death and ceremony is by Tasmanian Aboriginal writer/thinker/educator Greg Lehman, Trawulway People, Nth East Tasmania. Lehman says: To pay respect and honour to the spirits of the Old Ones after so many years of desecration and indignity is our most important obligation." ‘Life’s Quiet Companion’, Island, (no.69, 1996, p.60). So now in this draft edit we have Lehman's words over the image of water....

Monday, February 12, 2007

The third anniversary of the death of Aboriginal teenager TJ Hickey will be on February 14.

The third anniversary. In memoriam: TJ was impaled on a metal fence while being chased by Redfern police. Had police followed proper medical practices, it is likely that TJ would have survived.

I filmed at the TJ Hickey Rally in 2005 and have included some footage of Sam Watson in the rough cut.. Sam has been down the last 2 weeks re Black Deaths in Custody. I think it should be in the film and am trying to meet up with Sam, get his permission and film some more re: Mulrunji, Hickey, Deaths in Custody : putting it into an overview historical perspective colonisation 21st century. I couldn't get to the start of the Rally, but have just got back from Goulburn Police Sation in the city. I hung around for a while and then went looking for the March. No sight of them!

The Experimental Practice of History

photo: Jeni Thornley (director) Erika Addis (cinematographer) Pat Fiske (sound recordist) Moya Iceton (supervising producer) on location To the Other Shore 1996. Photo: Sandy Edwards "Jeni Thornley's personal films, Maidens and To the Other Shore, and her collaborative social action documentaries, (A Film for Discussion, with Martha Ansara & Sydney Women's Film Group and For Love or Moneywith McMurchy, Nash and Oliver) are land mark films in the history of Australian feminist cinema over the last three decades. Although these genres of activist cinema fell out of favour in the 1980s, Meaghan Morris's articulation of feminism as an "experimental practice of history" has opened up a space for re-reading Thornley's films.

As an editing bench filmmaker, Thornley reworks existing photographic and archival footage to reconstruct her own history and to investigate second wave feminism as a crisis of female subjectivity. This article is part of a larger project which draws on contemporary readings of Walter Benjamin's materialist practice of history to rethink the registers of history, memory and narrativity in autobiographical films." Felicity Collins, The Experimental Practice of History in the Film Work of Jeni Thornley, Screening the Past, Latrobe University, 1998

Memory in Ruins: remembering, repeating and working through

Anne Tenney in To the Other Shore 1996 (photo: Sandy Edwards).
"To the Other Shore" is a work of mourning. "It completes a project of feminist filmmaking by articulating feminism’s primal scene themes in relation to the father and his cinema. The starting point...for a reading of "To the Other Shore" as feminism’s ‘optical unconscious’ is Susannah Radstone’s distinction between reciprocal memory films and nostalgic history films. By rethinking the figure of the filmmaker/spectator in terms of a reciprocal, maternal look this article argues that To the Other Shore reveals the obstacles to a maternal gaze within feminist cinema." Felicity Collins, Screening the Past, Latrobe University, December 2001.

"To the Other Shore" is made from inside the therapuetic encounter and reflects the process of psychoanalysis written about by Freud in his 1914 paper Remembering, Repeating and Working Through. The film took me ten years to make; I began it in 1985 when my daughter was born and I completed the film in 1996 when she was ten. During that time my parents died and my partner's parents died, too. The film evolved into "a work of mourning" as well as a diary film about being a mother. "To the Other Shore" is often used by community groups in their work with mothers and new babies -see this link for details re purchasing copies.

Respecting Cultures, Working with the Tasmanian Aboriginal Community and Aboriginal Artists

photo: family farmhouse in the Midlands: "we grew up behind a hedge, keeping history out". What happens when you bring history inside - when you wake up to 'deep history' ? I am going back to Tassie next week (22.2.07) to do more filming, visit family and meet with TALSC The Tasmanian Land & Sea Council to discuss the rough cut DVD and how its going with respect to protocols. There are 9 protocols in "Respecting Cultures"(p20-24). The following 4 are most relevant to Island Home Country.

The key to approaching the application of appropriate protocols is
respect. Consider how this is established in a project or proposal.
Finding the correct way for a project to be achieved with respect
for the people being represented or involved as artists will lead
towards a better approach to understanding the cultural sensitivities
within the Tasmanian Aboriginal community.

Consultation and Consent
Have you received written agreement for the project?
Sufficient time should be allocated for consultation and responses.
Permission needs to be obtained prior to use of stories, images or
creations that might infringe on artists’ and communities’ ownership
or copyright. An agreement outlining the conditions of consent
must be obtained from the owner(s), custodians or Aboriginal
community-based organisations for projects to be initially considered
and progressed

Does your nominated Aboriginal community member have the
authority to speak for, or on behalf of, the project proposal?
Does your nominated Aboriginal community member have the
authority to speak for, or on behalf of, the project proposal?
Consultation needs to occur prior to the development of projects
with Aboriginal content. Projects involving Aboriginal cultural
expression must be negotiated with the owner(s) or Aboriginal
community-based organisations, as appropriate. It is important to
locate the most relevant Aboriginal community-based organisation.
The organisation should be formally recognised by other established
Aboriginal community-based organisations.

Proper Returns
Have you considered ways in which the Tasmanian Aboriginal
community can benefit from the use of their material?
Issues of copyright, royalties and fees need to be discussed from
the beginning of the project, including informing the Aboriginal
community and Aboriginal artists of the potential for commercial

Sunday, February 11, 2007


A documentary film in post production. This is the phase of the project right now and it's challenging; well, for a start it has its own timing; you can't push it; you have to wait...I've sent 30 draft rough cut DVD's (running time 52 mins approx) to people I have filmed with or communities whose country is involved in the film and so the final edit the film waits till further responses.
The key protocol document for Tasmania is Respecting Cultures, Working with the Tasmanian Aboriginal Community and Aboriginal Artists".

More later on this.....