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Special Documentary Initiatives


State of Alarm

Indigenous screen practitioners developing screen content aimed at global audiences. These stories will look at traditional practices of Indigenous People and how they can combat climate change with an aim to not only challenge the status quo, but provide insights and provoke thought about Indigenous solutions to the global issue of climate change.

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Documentary production: Social Impact Program

The intention of the Social Impact Documentary program is to provide producers with the flexibility to drive projects both creatively and commercially, with Screen Australia funding as the foundation for growing and securing deals. The program is designed to support innovative documentaries with a strong creative vision in the context of today’s evolving media and distribution landscape and the commercial realities of increasingly fragmented sources of finance.

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Songlines on Screen

A special initiative in conjunction with NITV, Songlines on Screen aims to give place to some of the many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander songlines that are integral to the makeup of Indigenous Australia, incorporating the full spectrum of storytelling including dance, song, art, body painting, and sites of significance.

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Indigenous Feature Documentary Initiative

Screen Australia and the Adelaide Film Festival, in collaboration with KOJO and the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA), intend to provide Indigenous documentary filmmakers with a funding opportunity through the Indigenous Feature Documentary Initiative. The initiative is designed to support one producer and Indigenous director team only. The fund will support this team to make a cinematic, big-screen, feature-length documentary that will premiere at the 2017 Adelaide Film Festival (see ‘AFF Special Conditions’ below). The proposed documentary should also be intended for other festival, theatrical, digital and transmedia audiences.

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Black Impact

A special initiative of the Indigenous Department of Screen Australia in association with the ABC. It aims to give voice to distinctive Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander documentary stories and add to Australia’s cultural landscape. We are looking to develop four bold and original ideas with the view to taking two into production. These ideas should exhibit a high level of creative ambition, and give fresh insights into contemporary Black Australian life. Applications closed 1 June 2012.

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NIDF Series 13 - Call to Country

Call to Country was the Indigenous Department's 2011 National Indigenous Documentary Fund (NIDF) initiative. In association with the ABC, and led by award-winning filmmaker Beck Cole, it provided opportunities for passionate, emerging Indigenous documentary filmmakers to dig beneath the surface and uncover a slice of Indigenous life never before represented on our screens.

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The Indigenous Branch was launched by the Australian Film Commission in 1993 to promote the quality and diversity of Indigenous films and develop a wider audience for films written, directed and produced by Indgenous Australians. Over the years the Unit has carefully developed groups of Indigenous filmmakers through a special initiatives such as the National Indigenous Documentary Fund (NIDF).

The Indigenous Department has allocated specific development funds toward the National Indigenous Documentary Fund (NIDF), which provides production opportunities for Indigenous documentary filmmakers. The NIDF is financed by a combination of production funds from Screen Australia, SBS, the ABC and the state agencies. The Indigenous Branch of the Australian Film Commission (AFC) assumed management of the NIDF in association with Indigenous Screen Australia (ISA) on Series 5 in 2001.

Transferring to Screen Australia and becoming the Indigenous Department in 2008 we continue to support the voices, visions and stories of Indigenous filmmakers.

NIDF Series 12

NIDF 12 comprised two 55-minute documentaries designed to bring to the screen Indigenous stories authored and crafted by Indigenous people.

NIDF Series 11: Loved Up 2

An initiative of the Indigenous Branch of Screen Australia, in association with SBS Television and relevant state film financing agencies, NIDF 11 - Loved Up 2 commenced in 2008. The series focused on the blissful, complex, brave, brutal, mysterious and magical stories of love from the unique perspective of Indigenous Australians:

    (w/d: Michael Longbottom; p: Lisa Duff)
    This is the story about the crippling health affects of diabetes and obesity in Indigenous communities throughout Australia and one man's love for life battling to stay alive and fight against the demon called obesity and diabetes.
    (w/d: Genevieve Grieves; p: Darren Dale, Rachel Perkins)
    The tale of one woman and two relationships. One she has to leave to survive and one she can't survive without. The rates of domestic violence against Aboriginal women in Australia are at endemic proportions. How does one woman break the cycle? Will love be enough to get her through the hard times ahead?
    (w/d: Mary Munro; p: Lisa Duff)
    The story of a family’s love as they journey from NSW to South Australia, to unravel the fate of their brother and uncle, and to bring him home to a proper resting place next to the grave of his mother.

NIDF Series 10

An initiative of the Indigenous Branch of the AFC, in association with the FFC, ABC, and relevant state agencies. NIDF 10 comprised of two 55-minute documentaries designed to bring important Indigenous stories to the screen, authored and crafted by Indigenous people. The aim of NIDF 10 was to provide an opportunity for Indigenous filmmakers to work on longer-format documentaries. The films in this series were:

    (w/d: Beck Cole; p: Kath Shelper)
    A warm and affectionate behind-the-scenes look at the making of Warwick Thornton's hit feature film Samson & Delilah.
    (d: Julie Nimmo; p: Tom Zubrycki)
    Examines the process of the federal intervention taking place in Indigenous communities in the Katherine region in the Northern Territory in the name of neglected and abused children.

NIDF Series 9

Consisted of 2 x 52-minute films produced in association with SBS:

    (d: Darlene Johnson; p: Pat Fiske)
    Frances Djulibing is a 45-year-old mother of three who comes from the remote community of Ramingining in north-east Arnhem Land. A story of change and transformation as Frances learns to move between the ancient life of the Yolgnu and modern world of the Balanda (white culture).
    (w/d: Rima Tamou; w/p: Pauline Clague)
    A love story, looking at a mixed marriage that has lasted for 40 years, with a true sense of reconciliation bringing their lives together.

NIDF Series 8: Black on White

A series of 5 x half-hour stories made in association with the ABC. The NIDF8 films were launched at the 2007 Message Sticks Indigenous Film Festival, at the Sydney Opera House:

    (w/d: Lee Willis-Ardler; p: Gina Twyble)
    In Australia, the average life expectancy for Indigenous men is 59. For non-Indigenous men it is 77. Aboriginal writer/director, Lee Willis, speaks to the former Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Mal Brough; the Country Women's Association; his local GP; and ordinary Aboriginal people to find out what caused the gap and what can be done to close it.
    (w: Albert Hartnett and Adrian Wills; d: Adrian Wills; p: Melissa Johnston)
    On New Year's Day 2006, on the Gordon Estate in Dubbo, complaints of police brutality towards an Aboriginal youth sparked a riot, which immediately enforced the new riot and affray law available to the NSW police. This is where the story begins.
    (w/d: Sonja Dare; p: James Bradley)
    Welcome to Alice Springs, the lesbian metropolis of outback Australia, a place where black and white women mix and mingle. Satirical and funny, this revealing documentary asks the question: is it hard to sustain love when racial and cultural gaps seem insurmountable?
    (w: Stephen Hagan and Daryl Sparkes; d: Rhonda Hagan; p: Daryl Sparkes, Rhonda Hagan and Stephen Hagan)
    Nigger Lovers documents one man's fight against racism and prejudice, which he encounters when he tries to have a sign with the word 'Nigger' on it removed from the sporting field of Australia's largest inland city, Toowoomba, Queensland.

NIDF Series 7

The four films from NIDF 7 were launched at the 2006 Message Sticks Indigenous Film Festival, at the Sydney Opera House:

    (w/d: Michael Longbottom; p: Lisa Duff)
    The story of a small Aboriginal community located in bustling multicultural Sydney. It is the journey of a community, whose beginnings were marked by racial division and the suffering it brought, and their embracing of football as a starting point to put these historic differences behind them, forging what has now become a unique and prosperous mix of black and white cultures, working together side-by-side in all aspects of life, with respect, honour, integrity and trust.
    (w: Aaron Pedersen; d: Steven McGregor; p: Sarah Bond)
    Aaron and Vinnie Pedersen are two brothers who have been each other's shadow. Aaron has established a successful career as an actor, all the while being responsible for the care of Vinnie, who has mild intellectual disabilities and cerebral palsy. My Brother Vinnie intimately explores a relationship full of humour and charm. The characters will touch you with their wit and honesty.
    (w/d: Kelrick Martin; p: Pauline Clague)
    The untold history of a small diaspora of Torres Strait Islander people, and the massive contribution they made to the development of a billion dollar mining industry in the harsh north-west of Western Australia.
    (w/d: Glen Stasiuk; p: Paul Roberts)
    Journey into the Gibson Desert to the country traversed by Warri and Yatungka, the last of the nomads who were brought in to Wiluna in 1977 in a time of drought.

NIDF Series 6: Loved Up

These films were launched at the 2005 Message Sticks Indigenous Film Festival, at the Sydney Opera House:

    (w/d: Lawrence Johnston; p: Peter George)
    Explores love, marriage and commitment and its influence on filmmaker Lawrence Johnston and his family.
    (w/d: Beck Cole; p: Jacqui North)
    Jessi Bartlett is an Aboriginal girl on the brink of womanhood. Her Pintubi grandmothers take her on an incredible journey back to their homelands where they teach her about the lore of love: traditional way.
    (w: Tom E Lewis; d: Ivan Sen; p: Citt Williams)
    In 1978, Tom Lewis appeared in the Australian feature, The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith. Jimmie Blacksmith's life was hauntingly close to his own: a young man struggling for a foothold on the edge of two cultures. Tom's mother is a traditional Indigenous woman of southern Arnhem Land, his father a Welsh stockman who he never really knew. Yellow Fella is a journey across the land and into Tom's past as he attempts to find the resting place of his father.
    (w/d: Tracey Rigney; p: Carmel McAloon)
    Takes a look at the scarcity of the eligible Aboriginal male and the effects this has on Aboriginal women looking for love, and the survival of Aboriginal people and culture.

NIDF Series 5 - Skin, Kin and Country: Stories from Black Australia

The series of five 26-minute programs was an initiative of the Indigenous Unit of the AFC, ATSIC, SBS Independent, NSW Film and Television Office, South Australian Film Corporation and ScreenWest. Launched at the 2003 Australian International Documentary Conference in Byron Bay in February 2003. Supervising producer of the series was Cathy Eatock. The documentaries screened on SBS TV in 2003:

    (w/d: Darrin Ballangarry, p: Priscilla Collins)
    Indigenous people, young and old, living and coping with the ever increasing incidence of kidney disease.
    (w: Troy Russell, Melissa Abraham, d: Troy Russell, p: Penny McDonald, co-p: Melissa Abraham)
    During the 1960s a celebrated entity 'The Foundation for Aboriginal Affairs' emerged. Set during a time when change for urban Kooris was on the increase, the Foundation helped the mob to help themselves.
    (w/d: Mark Bin Bakar, p: Dot West)
    Frank Shoveller has been teaching his daughter, Leanna, music since she was very young. The father and daughter team demonstrate their special relationship as Frank guides his daughter into the world of adulthood and the music industry while holding firmly to traditional and cultural values.
    (w/d: Erica Glynn, p: Will Rogers)
    Ngangkari Way is so important to Anangu. It is a stark contrast to the Western world's approach to medicine and the Ngangkari Way certainly shines through. This film will highlight that from the beginning, through Aboriginal law and culture, Ngangkari Way is determined and sustained.
    (w/d: Peter Hodgson, p: Heather Croall)
    Reveals the effects that nuclear testing and uranium mining have had on the Indigenous communities in Central Australia.