Indigenous storytelling at DUB 2014

By guest blogger Melinda Barlow

Pictured are Frances Hill, Sarah Reinke (Gesellschaft für bedrohe Völker), Melinda Barlow and Marion Caris during the panel discussion following the screening of the documentary “Utopia” by John Pilger.

The selection of films in this year’s Indigenous section gave an impressive insight into the depth and quality of stories being told by Indigenous and Non Indigenous filmmakers. During post film discussions, audience members enjoyed the chance to talk about issues affecting Indigenous peoples in both Australia and New Zealand.

Friday night’s screening of Charles Chauvel’s history making Jedda (1955) was given a comprehensive introduction via the screening of two short films and a discussion on the same themes. Warwick Thornton’s Rosalie’s Journey (2003) gave great context to the role of Rosalie Kunoth-Monks as the lead in Jedda and contemporary artist Tracey Moffat’s film Night Cries: A Rural Tragedy (1990) explored the question of what would have happened had Jedda’s story had a different ending. Rosalie Delaney and myself were on hand to share our experiences and insights into life in Aboriginal Australia and we had a good discussion about how accurately the films depicted life for Indigenous people. This led nicely into the screening of Jedda.

Saturday night’s screening of Utopia(2014)  and post film discussion raised the issue of a much needed treaty. An expert panel were on hand to discuss this and to answer questions. Sarah Reinke, the head of the Berlin office of the Society for Threatened Peoples, Marion Caris, a local Aboriginal activist, and myself were all thrilled to hear people so passionately engaged in the topic.

The screening of Buckskin (2013) also led to a fascinating discussion between festival director Frances Hill and Corinna Erckenbrecht from the Society for Australian Studies in Berlin. Jack Buckskin’s passion for the Kaurna language revealed a connection to early German explorers who studied and documented the language.

One theme that arose across the discussions was how the story of Indigenous experience is affected when told by a Non Indigenous storyteller.  From the Australian selections, both Jedda and Utopia were made by Non Indigenous filmmakers, while Rosalie’s JourneyNight Cries: A  Rural TragedySamson & Delilah (2009), Buckskin and Bran Nue Dae (2009) were all made by Aboriginal Australians. Audiences seemed to have a strong sense of the differences in how the stories were told and felt that less then the whole story was presented through the Non Indigenous filmmakers eyes.

Overall this year’s Indigenous section was very well received and as an Australian a long way from home, it was great to see such passionate interest and engagement from foreign audiences. Personally I hope more Aboriginal Australians are similarly inspired to tell us their stories on the big screen in the future.

Melinda Barlow is an Australian freelance writer, dividing her time between Europe and Australia. She first moved to Berlin in early 2012 and is an avid lover of films from all over the world. Previously she was film reviewer for ABC Radio in Australia among other things and currently writes for print and online media. @dragonflytrader

Rosalie Delaney is an Australian writer and comedian. She first moved to Berlin from Melbourne in 2009 and has been moving back and fourth between the two cities since. She is currently completing a Master of Arts in humour theory and Australian cinema at the Free University Berlin.

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