All of the films selected for the SOS season of Indigenous-themed shorts address issues the Australian Aboriginal population have long struggled with: poverty, urban integration, remote region funding and family discourse, to name just a few. But each film filters the issues through an individual's experiences; the shorts are conscious of the issues but refuse to be bound by them. Ivan Sen, Beck Cole, Jackie van Beek and the Mullins brothers want viewers to relate to their characters on a human level and not as political footballs. These films tackle universal themes – ambition, first love, parenting, stubbornness – through flawed, ambitious, and confused individuals.
The four shorts focus on the next generation of Aboriginal leaders and the decisions that young Indigenous men and women need to be make to maintain the legacy of their elders.
SOS: Australian Indigenous Shorts
Watch below (screened on SBS ONE, Saturday November 19, Midnight)
Minnie Loves Junior (2010, 13 mins, pictured)
Directors: Andy Mullins, Matthew Mullins
Andy and Matthew Mullins' remarkably assured debut concerns a rambunctious lad (Lartrell Stuart) with a passion for the ocean and the blossoming beauty (Wyntah Shaw) who adores him from afar. The seaside-set tale of childhood innocence is not completely rose-coloured, though. The short touches on the dangers of obsessive love, and the potentially fatal consequences of a home-made scuba get-up. But the brothers seem most at home with stolen glances, beaming smiles on sun-drenched sands and the effect of a teen's first kiss. In 2011, the film received a Special Mention by the Berlinale judges.
Tears (1998, 15 mins)
Director: Ivan Sen
The 1998 debut of acclaimed director Ivan Sen (whose Toomelah is now in cinemas), Tears introduces the structure and character interplay that he would later expand on in his debut feature, Beneath Clouds. Two young adults, the stoic and focussed Lena (Jamilla Frail) and impatient and whining Vaughn (Luke Carroll), trek a dusty outback road together – the beginning of a journey that holds both hope for a new life and a fear of the unknown world that exists beyond their 'Mish'. Never one to mince words, Sen lays the responsibilities of one's life at the feet of his protagonists; his film represents a line-in-the-sand challenge to young Aboriginals. Tears is also a very moving account of the end of a friendship; the ambiguity in the title speaks volumes, as does the film.
Flat (2004, 13 mins)
Director: Beck Cole
Marnie (Carmen Glynn-Braun) is a 15-year-old struggling to cope in the housing projects of Alice Springs; her father is absent and her similarly disenfranchised little sister (Savannah Glynn-Braun) is a burden. With a camcorder in hand, Marnie chronicles her world and, unknowingly, her own growing mental anguish. Here I Am director Beck Cole made a bold thematic and artistic statement with Flat, her first film. Under the mentorship of producer Rachel Perkins, Cole's film initially plays bleak and stark with recognisable signposts (casual crime, the effects of alcohol, wayward youths). Yet the first-person footage shot by 'Marnie' resonates, revealing a woman on the verge of a directionless life, the camera her only escape into another world of her own creation. The glare of desert sunlight illuminates every corner of Cole's film, and her affinity for her characters affords her a similarly penetrative insight.
One Shoe Short (2008, 8 mins)
Director: Jackie van Beek
There's no more intrinsically Australian quality than male 'mateship' and Jackie van Beek's winning One Shoe Short captures the quintessential bond of brotherhood perfectly. Doing it tough in one of Alice Spring's town camps, two pre-teen lads (Rodney Malbunka and Jesse McCormack) head to town with Aunty's money to buy steaks for the family barbie. But with only one good pair of shoes between them, they pull a swifty and hit the mall in search of comfy footwear. As you'll see, the shoes they choose (likely to provide the biggest laughs of the program) are perfunctory to the spirit of friendship exuded by van Beek's largely dialogue-free charmer. The butcher shop scene inspires tingles of warmth; the boys' outwitting of their class teacher is sublime.