australian indigenous film

Rowan McNamara as Samson, in Samson and Delilah

Rowan McNamara as Samson, in Samson and Delilah

Rowan McNamara as Samson, in Samson and Delilah

[This introduction was originally written in 2009 with some minor updates in 2012. Links will continue to be added to the list below. Eds.]

Thanks to an abundance of talent, inspired Aboriginal leadership and responsive film schools and government funding bodies, Australian Indigenous filmmaking has grown from of a handful of early works in the 1980s into a steady output of award winning short dramas and documentaries from the 1990s to the present.

Individual filmmakers have been aided in successive stages of their careers by the Indigenous Branch of the Australian Film Commission (now Screen Australia) with advice, workshops, funding and the regular release and marketing of clusters of short films, the Drama Initiative Series. More than a few filmmakers have gained experience and inspiration working with CAAMA Productions (Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association) in Alice Springs, one of several Aboriginal-led media organisations.

Sydney’s Metro Screen and FTI (Film and Television Institute, Fremantle, Western Australia) have, over many years, triggered filmmaking careers through training and mentoring. FTI, with the ABC, has produced several collections in their Deadly Yarns series of short films. State film bodies have contributed funds towards the making of numerous Indigenous films, while the Adelaide Film Festival invested in the making of Samson and Delilah.

Tracey Moffat (Bedevil, 1993), Rachel Perkins (Radiance, 1992) and Ivan Sen (Beneath Clouds, 2002) made their acclaimed feature films across almost a decade; these few were precursors to what now seems likely to be a wave of features, four premiering in 2009 alone—Warwick Thornton’s Samson and Delilah, Richard J Frankland’s Stone Bros and Rachel Perkins’ Bran Nu Dae and Ivan Sen’s Dreamland. 2011 saw the release of Beck Cole’s first feature film Here I Am premiering at the Adelaide Film Festival (which also featured Stop(the)Gap, an exhibition of international Indigenous art in motion) and also Ivan Sen’s Toomelah.

Not every filmmaker aspires to make narrative feature films: many will continue to focus on creating finely crafted, idiosyncratic short dramas and documentaries, and a small, but significant number, are now involved in exploring the potential of animation and digital media.

Dreaming in Motion

Dreaming in Motion

In 2007, RealTime edited and produced, Dreaming in Motion, A Celebration of Australian Indigenous Filmmakers. The book was published by the Australian Film Commission. It includes a brief history of Indigenous filmmaking and detailed profiles of 26 filmmakers along with production credits, festival screenings and awards. You can download the book as a PDF here. Alternatively, copies (including DVD) are available free of charge by emailing publications@screenaustralia.gov.au.

In OnScreen, our film and digital media supplement, RealTime has extensively reviewed Indigenous films and interviewed the filmmakers. The following is a selection going back to 2002.
Keith Gallasch



broken mothers in the blind spot
kathleen mary fallon: the blind side, jedda, night cries, blessed, australia
RealTime issue #98 Aug-Sept 2010 p28

for and by the community
gem blackwood: u-matic to youtube: indigenous community filmmaking
RealTime issue #98 Aug-Sept 2010 p32

Editorial: lessons from the indigenous sector
dan edwards
RealTime issue #67 June-July 2005 p18



hope & survival in the back of a van
dan edwards: interview, warwick thornton, mother courage, acmi
RealTime issue #113 Feb-March 2013 p22

a life retrieved
oliver downes: interview, beck cole & shai pittman, here i am
RealTime issue #103 June-July 2011 p13

the making of samson & delilah
keith gallasch: warwick thornton interview
RealTime issue #90 April-May 2009 p24

a filmmaking life
lisa stefanoff: interview with beck cole
RealTime issue #74 Aug-Sept 2006 p19

what the listener sees
lisa stefanoff talks with sound recordist & director David Tranter
RealTime issue #75 Oct-Nov 2006 p15


feature film

real life on the edge
oliver downes: ivan sen’s feature drama, toomelah
RealTime issue #104 Aug-Sept 2011 pg. 35

dreaming unanimity
keith gallasch: rachel perkins’ bran nue dae
RealTime issue #96 April-May 2010 p20

eddie & charlie, kings of the road
keith gallasch: richard j frankland’s stone bros
RealTime issue #92 Aug-Sept 2009 p28

the seeing ear, the hearing eye
keith gallasch: warwick thornton’s samson and delilah
RealTime issue #90 April-May 2009 p23

the story of a story
keith gallasch: beck cole, the making of samson and delilah
RealTime issue #93 Oct-Nov 2009 p28

playing by the rules
sandy cameron: ten canoes
RealTime issue #73 June-July 2006 p18

language as simple as a look
mike walsh: beneath clouds, ivan sen
RealTime issue #48 April-May 2002 p13


adelaide film festival 2011

indigenous media art: complex visions
tom redwood: stop(the)gap, adelaide film festival, samstag museum
RealTime issue #102 April-May 2011 p23

the magical meeting of cinema & media arts
keith gallasch: here i am, beck cole, tall man, vernon ah kee, tracey moffatt, stop(the)gap
RealTime issue #102 April-May 2011 p21,22,25

living cultures, moving images
stop(the)gap: international indigenous art in motion
RealTime issue #101 Feb-March 2011 p30


message sticks festival

finding the words
jane mills: message sticks film festival
RealTime issue #86 Aug-Sept 2008 p23

breaking the silence
dan edwards: message sticks
RealTime issue #62 Aug-Sept 2004 p23

new blak films
dan edwards
RealTime issue #56 Aug-Sept 2003 p18


colourised festival

the medium as the message stick
erik roberts: colourised festival 2005
RealTime issue #69 Oct-Nov 2005 p20

mirrors on aboriginality
erik roberts: colourised festival 2003
RealTime issue #56 Aug-Sept 2003 p18



CAAMA: from the heart
lisa stefanoff
RealTime issue #67 June-July 2005 p19


short film & animation reviews

animating dreaming into action
danni zuvela: big eye aboriginal animation from canada & australia
RealTime issue #91 June-July 2009 p26

hybrid lives, hybrid dreams
keith gallasch sees some deadly yarns from fti
RealTime issue #85 June-July 2008

the art of the short short
keith gallasch looks into the AFC’s bit of black business
RealTime issue #81 Oct-Nov 2007 p23

small tales and true
simon sellars asseses australian short film at the melbourne film festival
RealTime issue #81 Oct-Nov 2007 p19

the art of 5-minute statements
sarah-jane norman: deadly yarns, abc-tv
RealTime issue #67 June-July 2005 p23

life behind a curtain
keith gallasch: maya newell’s richard, angie abdilla’s wanja
RealTime issue #88 Dec-Jan 2008

films making culture
michelle moo
RealTime issue #68 Aug-Sept 2005 p33


michael riley

michael riley: photographer & filmmaker – part 1: spirit, land, image
dan edwards takes in the NGA riley retrospective
RealTime issue #76 Dec-Jan 2006 p20

michael riley part 2: the films—buried histories
dan edwards reflects on the NGA riley retrospective
RealTime issue #77 Feb-March 2007 p15

obituary: michael riley
djon mundine oam
RealTime issue #63 Oct-Nov 2004 p53

21 September 2009