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.