Stories about surviving a horrific train accident to being queer in the Central Desert are just some of the captivating narratives in this season's Our Stories program.
Our Stories is an NITV initiative which gives an opportunity for emerging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander filmmakers to create short 15-30 minute documentaries for broadcast.
These documentaries considered digital songlines of our life, history, cultures and communities and this year, we proudly received five of these films in-language.
With over 35 short documentaries in this years’ series, we present a snap shot of some of the diverse, inspiring and cinematically beautiful documentaries that will be going to air from tonight.
My “top five” picks from this year’s series, includes:
1. Voice From The Desert
Electro-soul band Electric Fields Vocalist (and next years' Eurovision hopeful), Zaachariaha Lowah-Fielding is taking the Australian music industry by storm. After winning New Talent of the Year at the National Indigenous Music Awards, Zaachariaha returns to his Central Desert community of Mimili, where he grew up. Through sincere and honest interviews with Zaachariaha and his family, audiences learn of the challenges this young Indigenous man had to overcome as a child and how he managed to make it to music stardom as a proud member of the LGBTQ community.
Director, Daniel Clarke says the documentary’s aim was to highlight the cultural and sexual-orientation barriers Zaachariaha Fielding has been challenged by in order to achieve his musical dream.
“[As] a role model for Anangu youth in the APY Lands, it’s important to show Zaachariaha's thousands of fans where he has come from,” Clarke told NITV.
“The beauty of his spiritual country and the support he has received from his family during his musical journey as well as the discovery of his true self.
It has not been an easy journey for him, but it is his connection to country and culture that both inspires his art and keeps him spiritually strong.”
Voice From The Desert is not only a captivating personal story, but audibly stimulating, as popular Electric Fields tracks play throughout the 15 minutes.
Zaachariaha’s own story of finding himself through art and music is a touching autobiography, with his parents’ Kaye Lowah and Robert Fielding sharing memories of their talented, driven son.
Voice From The Desert airs Monday, 10 December, 7pm on NITV (Ch. 34)
2. The Real Bushtucker Bunjie
The Real Bushtucker Bunjie is a boundary-breaking mockumentary/documentary exploring the rise of comedic actor Gabriel Willie, giving a behind scenes look into his personal story and who the man behind the camera really is.
Producer Benjamin Southwell said he wanted to make the project with Willie for two key reasons.
“Personally, I was inspired by my time working on THOR:Ragnuruk and Director Tiaka Wiatitti’s earlier comedy career,” he told NITV. “I like trying things others aren’t doing, so I wanted to explore a new style of documentary that hasn’t been done before on Our Stories.
“We’ve also been developing a new narrative comedy series with Gabe [Willie] for broadcast. This seemed a great way to develop his character further as well as grow his existing fans by showing him as the humble, engaging family man he is.”
Many are familiar with the hilarious Bushtucker Bunjie, a social media sensation with a YouTube channel reaching 14K subscribers. However, what is less known is the man behind the crazy character in the blonde wig.
This unique documentary gives viewers an insight into Gabriel Willie’s personal life; how his love for comedy came about, his family history, his strong passion for his culture and how he is passing it onto his children.
“Bushtucker Bunjie represents the crazy antics of grassroots Indigenous families— we can all relate to the character as we all have a Bunjie in our own family somewhere,” says Southwell.
The Real Bushtucker Bunjie airs Tuesday, 18 December, 7pm on NITV (Ch. 34)
3. Jade Runner
When a Perth teenager almost lost her life in a train accident at the age of 16, which severed both her legs, she chose to make the most of her second chance at life. Jade Runner is an important story to be told about a sassy and talented young Noongar lady with a fighting spirit and steely determination.
Producer and Director, Nevanka McKeon came across Jade’s story four years ago through the media. Despite living on the opposite side of the country, McKeon was determined to profile Jade and help share her story.
“I was working in Sydney and looking for stories to pitch to my team and came across Jade’s story,” McKeon explains.
“I was simply captivated by what Jade had gone through with the train accident; how young she was but also how determined and positive she was to enjoy and make the most of the life she still had.”
McKeon is fairly new to filmmaking, and while she is still in the early stages of her craft, she knows she is an experienced storyteller.
“[I] especially [love] storytelling about my people and also people who may not get a voice or recognition usually for what they’re doing,” she told NITV.
“There are way too many negative stories out there about my people. Through storytelling and filmmaking, I get to show how incredible my people are and the amazing things they are doing and achieving. And Jade Runner is one of those stories”.
Jade Runner is one of the series’ most moving stories that will no doubt have audiences fighting back tears, as Jade recounts the frightening moments of getting hit by a train and how her friend helped save her life. As the narrative continues, viewers will want to wanting to shed tears of joy hearing her astonishing resilience and strength, overcoming a battle that many people would not be able to comprehend.
Jade Runner airs Wednesday, 16 January, 7pm on NITV (Ch. 34)
4. Too Pretty To Be Aboriginal
Director Sasha Sarago examines Australia’s perception of Aboriginal womanhood and beauty through the stories of four Aboriginal women and the statement: "You're too pretty to be Aboriginal”.
Producer Lisa Albert told NITV the idea of this feminist narrative was inspired by the rise of women’s voices and experiences in recent social politics.
“Sasha Sarago [Director] came to us with this idea to explore the phrase ‘you’re too pretty to be Aboriginal’, and we thought ‘wow!’,” Albert explains.
“And in the context of the #MeToo movement, that has been driven predominantly by powerful white women, it [felt] important to create the space for a unique perspective on the issue; that of Aboriginal women.”
Too Pretty To Be Aboriginal explores the deeply offensive, albeit common, sentiment that is unfortunately very familiar for Aboriginal women in Australia.
The documentary looks at the history of this phrase and interviews a several proud Indigenous women who share their understanding of identity and their own personal experiences with this statement. Academic and author, Dr Liz Conor, for example, gives her insights into how this statement has come from a problematic historical place and which can be linked to the White Australia Policy.
In a society which elevates and celebrates “white beauty” many Indigenous and non-white audiences— who have had to justify our culture, heritage and where we fit in —will be able to connect with this contemporary confronting film.
Too Pretty To Be Aboriginal airs Tuesday, 8 January, 7pm on NITV (Ch. 34)
Rosalie (Kumalie) Riley, a traditional Eastern Arrernte woman and respected Elder from Alice Springs, is on a mission to teach the young people of her community songs, dances and stories so they may one day run their own ceremonies and performances after the their Elders have left them behind.
Director Chris Fitzpatrick says it all started by looking through archival footage in Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association’s (CAAMA) library. He came across an episode of Nganampa which featured his former high school teacher, Arrernte woman, Kumaile Riley.”
“I researched her a bit, then gave her a call and that was how I found out about her company, Tinkerbee,” Fitzpatrick explains. “As a Yangyuwa/Garrwa man, I felt happiness and pride when I heard that through Tinkerbee she was teaching her younger generation how to sing traditional songs and conduct ceremonies.
“Learning about her extensive work as a language teacher, language co-ordinator, interpreter and cultural leader, alongside her contributions to the Nganampa series, made me feel that she truly deserved a documentary made about her.”
The vital work that Kumalie has done throughout her life by the passing down of her Arrernte culture to her community, keeping her culture alive and passing this onto younger generations will fill audiences hearts with joy, happiness and also pride. Kumalie is one of Our Stories’ in-language documentaries, spoken in Eastern and Central Arrernte language.
Kumalie airs Monday, 11 February, 7pm on NITV (Ch. 34)
Each year NITV offers a platform for Indigenous storytellers to creatively tell our stories, from our perspective and by our people.
These stories highlight fundamental elements such as, hope, resilience, humour, pride and identity which keeps our culture alive and thriving. As natural born storytellers, we need to keep creating stories and content to share with the rest of the country to be understood and heard.
Lowanna Grant is Wiradjuri/Arrente woman and Project Coordinator at NITV. Lowanna was the Junior Commissioning Editor for Our Stories Season 6. Follow @LowannaGrant
Our Stories Season 6 premieres tonight, 7pm and will run weeknights on NITV (Ch. 34). Our Stories will be available On SBS On Demand after broadcast.