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31 01 2022 - Media release

Seven new documentaries commissioned through the Curious Australia initiative


The Alexander Ball (Photo credit: Somefx)

SBS, National Indigenous Television (NITV) and Screen Australia have announced a collection of seven standalone half-hour documentaries commissioned through the nationwide Curious Australia initiative.

In partnership with state and territory agencies Film Victoria, Screen NSW, Screen Queensland, Screen Tasmania, Screen Territory, Screenwest and the South Australian Film Corporation (SAFC), Curious Australia supports screen practitioners from under-represented backgrounds in the sector to amplify their authentic, enlightening and powerful  stories on Australian screens.

SBS has commissioned Run Girl (Screen NSW), The Alexander Ball (Screen Queensland), We Are Sexual Beings (Film Victoria), and Whatever Scares You (Film Victoria), while Black Empire (South Australian Film Corporation), Sistas in Mining (Screen Queensland) and Unlocked (Screen NSW) have been commissioned to premiere on NITV. 

Criteria for Curious Australia applications included two key creative roles on a project being held by people from an under-represented background, including those identifying as First Nations Australians; women, those with diverse age backgrounds; people from cultural and linguistically diverse backgrounds; people living with disability; people of diverse sexuality and gender identities including LGBTQIA+; people from under-represented locations (including regional and remote areas); and people from diverse socio-economic backgrounds.

Each documentary was selected for its reflection of SBS’s Charter and its innovative exploration of issues relevant to contemporary Australia.

The selected titles commissioned to premiere on SBS and NITV, are:

  • Run Girl (Screen NSW): Australian Olympic sprinter, Bendere Oboya, embraces her identity to confront her destiny as she switches disciplines from the 400m to 800m in pursuit of becoming the world's best. After joining her local athletics club to make friends the Ethiopian-born 21 year old is determined to show that no matter your beginnings, anything is possible. Director/Producer/Writer: Renny Wijeyamohan, Writer: Zufan Emerson.
  • The Alexander Ball (Screen Queensland): An observational documentary extravaganza celebrating Samoan-Australian trans woman of colour, Ella Ganza, and the Meanjin (Brisbane) ballroom scene, as the community prepares for one of biggest pride events of the year: The Alexander Ball. Director/Producer/Writer: Jessica Magro.
  • We Are Sexual Beings (Film Victoria): What does it mean to be young, disabled and sexual in modern Australia? We Are Sexual Beings exposes the fun and sometimes painful details as we follow three remarkably different human beings who all happen to share two things in common: life altering spinal injuries and healthy sexual appetites. Creator/Writer/Producer: Lucy Knox, Creator/Writer/Producer: Isaac Elliott.
  • Whatever Scares You (Film Victoria): A rite of passage film that documents Breanna Deleo in her first year of work. Breanna is attempting to work as a professional artist - a challenging profession for anyone. And Breanna identifies as disabled. Breanna’s parents are her greatest allies and advocates. They want to protect Breanna but sometimes to find our way in the world, we need to go it alone. Writer and Director: Tamara Searle, Writer: Breanna Deleo , Producer: Alice Fleming.
  • Black Empire (South Australian Film Corporation): After a successful but exhausting career fighting prejudice, racism, and exploitation in the Australian Music Industry, rapper Jimblah embarks on his latest project, BLKMPIRE, aiming to reimagine how the music industry can work. But can he transform the country through black song, or will the staid traditions of an exploitative industry rear their heads? Director: Johanis Lyons-Reid, Writer/Director: Pearl Berry, Writer/Producer: Piri Eddy, Producer: Lilla Berry.
  • Sistas in Mining (Screen Queensland): Sistas in Mining (working title), is a documentary that will follow the inspiring story of Shontell Leah Ketchell, an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander woman, who is an aspiring screenwriter who works as a production operator on a coal mine in Central Queensland. Co-Director: Ewan Cutler, Co-Director/Producer: Jill Robinson, Writer/Creator/Associate Producer: Shontell Leah Ketchell.
  • Unlocked (Screen NSW): Unlocked explores how a journey of two similar teenagers facing juvenile incarceration can be drastically altered if they identify as being Indigenous Australian. A story about mental illness told through the lens of animation, having animated characters interact with live action worlds is innovative and refreshing. Co-Director/Co-Writer: Jake Duczynski, Co-Director/Co-Writer: Mr James Hackett, Executive Producer: Beck Cole, Producer: Andrew Arbuthnot.

Bernadine Lim, Commissioning Editor of Documentaries at SBS said, “The response to Curious Australia was fantastic, we received a large number of submissions with exciting, untold stories from incredible up-and-coming storytellers.

“Curious Australia is an exciting new addition to our factual offering across the SBS network, providing a unique opportunity for mid-level and emerging documentary-makers to tackle contemporary Australian stories and issues, while also supporting the development of diverse creative talent in the sector.”

Marissa McDowell, Commissioning Editor at NITV said, “We’re really looking forward to seeing these bold and unique stories from First Nations documentary makers across Australia uncovered through this initiative, come to life on our screens. We’re pleased to be ensuring that under-represented storytellers have a platform for their perspectives to inspire all Australians.”

Screen Australia’s Head of Documentary, Alex West said, “These unique stories offer insight into a range of contemporary issues and they showcase the powerful filmmaking talent we have around the country. We are proud to support Curious Australia and I can’t wait for these documentaries to engage audiences on SBS and NITV this year.”

Film Victoria’s CEO, Caroline Pitcher said, “Curious is a fantastic opportunity for early to mid-career practitioners to reach a national audience and elevate diverse talent and stories. After a rigorous selection process, we’re pleased to support We Are Sexual Beings by creative team Lucy Knox and Issac Elliot and Whatever Scares You by Alice Fleming, Tamara Searle and Breanna Deleo. Both projects present candid and authentic portrayals of contemporary Australia and importantly reflect diversity in both their filmmaking teams and projects.”

Grainne Brunsdon, Head of Screen NSW said, “As a champion of promoting a diverse screen industry behind and in front of the camera, Screen NSW is proud to partner with SBS, Screen Australia and other state and territory agencies on the Curious Australia initiative.

“This collaboration has unearthed two excellent projects for NSW and will support talented local creative talent from under-represented backgrounds to share incredibly poignant stories. Run Girl, commissioned for SBS, follows Ethiopian-Australian Olympic sprinter Bendere Oboya as she confronts her heritage to achieve her destiny, transitioning from the 400 to the 800 meters; and Unlocked, commissioned for NITV, will explore how a journey of two similar teenagers facing juvenile incarceration can be drastically altered if they identify as being Indigenous Australian. I look forward to seeing these projects come to life on screen.”

Kylie Munnich, Screen Queensland CEO, said, “Partnering with SBS and NITV for the Curious Australia initiative has provided a prestigious, national platform for these talented filmmakers from under-represented backgrounds to tell their stories, their way.  Documentaries are an incredibly powerful tool for both exploring and reflecting Australia’s richly diverse society and allow for a greater variety of people, stories and ways of life to make it to our screens.

“SBS and NITV provide a unique, dedicated service to audiences and industry through their commitment to uplifting under-represented voices, and we particularly look forward to seeing the films by our supported Queensland recipients – First Nations, Cairns-based filmmaker Shontell Ketchell and Samoan-Maltese-Australian filmmaker Jessica Magro from Brisbane - on their channels and platforms.”

Kate Croser, SAFC CEO, said, “As an agency committed to supporting and promoting diverse South Australian screen practitioners and their stories, the SAFC has been proud to partner with SBS and NITV on this initiative providing a national platform to amplify under-represented Australian voices. It is especially exciting that the selected South Australian project comes from a First Nations led creative team of writer/director/producer sisters Pearl Berry and Lilla Berry, along with writer/producer Piri Eddy and director Johanis Lyons-Reid; we congratulate them on their success and look forward to seeing their finished film on NITV.”

Curious Australia is targeted at mid-career practitioners working on lower-budget, exciting and risk-taking projects. Launched with a call-out in 2021, it brings the sector together to support the further development of diverse creative talent.


Sarah Vahtola | Head of Corporate Communications, SBS

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